Edward Otto Zielke is the Marketing and Operations Manager for The Grand Resort & Spa in Fort Lauderdale. The Grand Resort and Spa is Fort Lauderdale’s largest and finest gay owned and operated spa-resort that first opened in 1999.
I had a chance to sit down with Edward to find out more about him and The Grand Resort.
Hi Edward, thanks so much for sparing time for your busy schedule to chat with me. Why don’t we start off with you introducing yourself to our readers?
I was born and raised in Livingston, NJ where I caught the showbiz bug at the age of 10 after being asked to sing a solo for an elementary school production. Throughout my teen years and college, I spanned the theatrical gamut doing everything from summer stock and dinner theater to regional, off-Broadway and national touring companies. I was fortunate to get to tour the country for several years in musical theater and performed at several Florida venues. It is where I first experienced the state of Florida and how I began to fall in love with its all year round sunny weather.
The last years of my 20s, I was tired of living out of my suitcase and opted to study computer graphics in New York City. I was quickly hired by JPMorgan as a consultant and worked my way up to becoming a fulltime web and graphic designer. Following another few years at Morgan Stanley, I was laid off due to the turbulent markets of 2009. I was also in a personal crisis, and I made a courageous decision to move to Florida in 2011 and start my life over. The first year I worked out all of my personal issues and applied for a part-time housekeeping job at a small gay boutique hotel. Because of my tenure at JPMorgan and Morgan Stanley, the owners asked me to move on the property and become its General Manager. I continued to manage that property for another 3 years.
When did you start work at The Grand Resort?
In 2015, I was asked to join The Grand Resort and Spa by the proprietor, Casey Koslowski. I was hired in a new management role for marketing and operations. When I worked at Morgan Stanley, one of my responsibilities was to work with our IT team and project manage several software applications and computer systems. This experience made working with our current IT support teams easier to manage and understand how to get results for improving our WiFi systems, our booking engines, servers, and computer systems.
What made you make the switch from acting to hotel marketing?
I have never really left acting. I still try to be involved in local theaters here in South Florida – both on the stage and off. I was recently asked to be a narrator for The Gay Men’s Chorus of South Florida’s production of Two Boys Kissing and have been in productions of Doubt, One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest, Safe Sex and several plays in development throughout the South Florida area.
I believe that my backgrounds in theater and graphic/web design have led me to where I am today. All of the business disciplines and how to work productively with other departments helped me to easily transition into the work I do at The Grand.
What does a typical day look like for you at work?
Typically I am in my office at 7am. I am a morning person so all my brain cells are pumped. It is when I do my best writing and creative thinking for the day. By 8 amour employees start arriving and we go over the day’s activities (i.e. check-ins, check-outs, review all communications from the night shifts, voicemails, emails, assess the property and report any issues, oversee breakfast)
By mid-morning,I am able to do some more creativity whether it is updating our websites, social media or reviewing our marketing calendar to see what will be coming up for us. Some days I can be focused on writing and design, other days I can be in meetings with our IT team, collaborating with production companies like World Of Wonder, or meeting with local organizations like Pride event coordinators, events and local charities. I could be focused on guest relations, planning in-house events or working with our spa to improve their visibility and what they offer. It is a job that requires me to wear many hats at the same time.
What’s been some of the highlights of your time at The Grand Resort?
One of the many accomplishments was collaborating with World Of Wonder Productions and sponsoring vacation prizes for some of the contestants on RuPaul’s Drag Race. We have had several infamous drag queens already stay with us and we look forward to participating in RuPaul’s DragCon NYC. We have been fortunate to have met several celebrities and reality TV stars stay with us which included LogoTV’s Fire Island star, Justin Russo and YouTube sensation Randy Rainbow.
Our property has received over the years numerous awards and accolades which include “Certificate of Excellence, Hall of Fame” – TripAdvisor; “Editor’s Choice” – Man About World; “#1 in Fort Lauderdale” – Pink Choice Award; “Best Small Hotel or Resort in the World” – Out Traveler Award Winner; “Top 10 Resorts” – The Travel Channel; “One of the top 10 gay-owned spas in the United States” – Out Traveler Magazine; “USA TODAY 10 BEST” – USA TODAY.
This year, I was personally nominated for a SUNsational Service Courtesy Award for Broward County’s Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention & Visitors Bureau.
Also we ae excited to be rolling our for our Spa a new appointment app from MINDBODY. It will allow guests and clients to see who is working that day and help coordinate with everyone’s schedules.
What are the top five reasons for people to visit The Grand Resort?
1. With 33 well-appointed rooms and suites, we are located conveniently to all of Fort Lauderdale’s attractions and nightlife, including our infamous gayborhood, Wilton Manors.
2. Our rates include complimentary WiFi, free parking, no resort fees charged and continental & hot catered breakfast catered daily.
3. The staff provides a first class experience for all our world travelers. You will not be disappointed!
4. Between happy hour cocktails and sunbathing, you can take advantage of the fabulous day spa that offers everything from massages and facials to manicures and pedicures.
5. We are just steps from the gay beach at Sebastian Street.
When is the best time to come and visit?
ANY TIME!!! But seriously, we have the most traffic during our high season months. From Christmas through Easter (Dec – April) it is the time of year when we see everyone trying to escape the cold. However, we are starting to see a rise during our summer months. We offer lots of sales, promotions, and events from June – September and our price point is at its lowest.
What offers do you currently have for our readers?
Our 2018 SUMMER SPECIAL is Stay 3 Nights, Get The 4th Night FREE. From June – September, stay 3 consecutive nights or more, receive the 4th night for FREE. Go to our Online Reservation System at grandresort.net, select the Reservation Wizard, choose your arrival and departure dates and enter the number of adults. Under the Rate drop-down selector, select our 2018 Summer Special! Certain restrictions may apply. New reservations only. No changes can be made at check-in or check-out. Holiday Weekends are excluded. Call us at 1-800-818-1211 or reserve your room through our website at www.grandresort.net.
If you could go back in time and give your 18 year old self one piece of advice, what would it be?
I just recently celebrated my 48th birthday, so to look at my life and how it was 30 years ago, it truly a path I never thought I would be on. I would tell Eddie, as many family and friends called me, it’s ok to be exactly who you are. Learn to love yourself and don’t make up a bunch of stories of how life should be. Be honest, open-minded and have the willingness to walk through your fears – it will be the most powerful tools you will ever possess.
What does the future look like for you?
Today, I am happily partnered to a wonderful man named David. We live together in Wilton Manors, the heart of South Florida’s gayborhood, with our two dogs, Ann-Margaret and Elvis. We both hope to become more acclimated to the community and help promote local gay-owned business. We are excited to have helped with bringing awareness to some local politicians including Wilton Manor’s vice-mayor Justin Flippin who is running for Mayor of our town!
The Grand’s owner Casey has made it very clear to me that he is not looking to sell the property. Despite the fact that some other gay resorts in our area are being bought out by other companies, we continue to be the #1 Spa-Resort for men on the Fort Lauderdale Beach. It helps that Casey is younger than me, so the odds of my long tenure at The Grand are highly promising.
In these unprecedented times, it is important foe me to stay abreast with what is going on in the world. The LGBTQ has worked very hard to promote opportunities and make this world all-inclusive. It is in danger of being dismantled, so I make sure that I am keeping informed through wonderful organizations like Human Rights Campaign, ACLU, GLAAD, Lambda Legal and other LGBTQ organizations.