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Creating Magic for Members: 100 New Things

In the club world, inspiration for new services, programs, events and facilities can be drawn from many sources and directions, taking various shapes, styles and forms. At the Detroit Athletic Club (DAC), we are often inspired by hearing our members’ ideas and responding in a way that sustains and builds satisfaction.

Staff also play a key role adding their desire to inspire through clear, thoughtful goals and direction. Gaining greater knowledge from what other clubs are doing helps us constantly focus on new ways of creating magic for our members.That’s actually one of the unique aspects to the DAC’s relatively young “100 New Things” program which began in earnest last year.

Originally inspired by Michael Leemhuis, CCM, CCE, and his team from the Ocean Reef Club, which had created their own new ideas campaign, the DAC’s 101 New Things project quickly sprang into action in the summer and fall of 2017. Today it sees new initiatives being considered or launched under its overarching umbrella on a monthly basis.

Following a visit to Ocean Reef Club by the DAC board of directors and Executive Manager Ted Gillary, CCM, CCE, the new program soon took form from the initial ideas of the club’s returning leadership, then ramped-up across the organization with the staff’s direction to think outside of the box and catalog their efforts. While some of the services, products, programs and other activities had already been taking shape over the past year, this initiative gathered everything together under a unified marketing and communications approach to add depth and clarity for members to understand what is being offered. The program has several major focus areas: DAC-branded products, dining events and activities, general club events, and athletic programming and wellness.

The first step involved gathering all of the information on what was “uniquely DAC” in the past year as well as identifying upcoming initiatives and, eventually, brainstorming new things we could implement quickly and successfully.


Many clubs have logo-based products and accessories, and the DAC is no different. Not long ago the DAC cemented relationships with several local breweries to create three of our own craft beers for the clubhouse. They are available both in bottle (with uniquely in-house designed labels) and on tap at several clubhouse locations. The DAC also connected with a local distillery to develop a custom DAC bourbon for members’ exclusive use. This beautifully bottled bourbon was launched in the summer of 2017 to a packed members-only audience in our Tap Room and more than 96 bottles have since been enjoyed by members.

Another inspiration came from the club’s 100th president, Pat O’Keefe, to partner with a winery to create a commemorative wine as a part of 100 New Things. Called “Century’s Finest” in honor of his presidency, it was the second wine developed by the DAC. The previous “centennial” wine just recently sold out.

Selling products through our Madison Café has given the DAC many opportunities to learn how to develop and market its own coffee, ice cream, line of spices and other DAC “signature goods.” The DAC’s “Last Word” cigars, named in honor of the cocktail created at the club in 1916, has been around for couple of years. However, once the 100 New Things product marketing initiated, sales really took off. To date the DAC has sold nearly 8,000 of these special cigars.

Special Events

Connecting with some of our product partners led to exclusive “winemaker” events in our Grill Room, weekly live music in our Tap Room and Stadium Club, which also began hosting events connected to major sporting activities such as the Kentucky Derby, the NCAA’s March Madness and the Super Bowl. Themed Tap Takeovers are now a regular feature of the Stadium Club and the Last Word cigar lounge.

As with many clubs, events at the DAC are one of the most important benefits of membership. The catering and special events team, working closely with a member activities committee, constantly changes the club’s calendar with new and exceptional activities, some of which began under 100 New Things and will continue this year and likely beyond. There are cabaret music events, kids theater in our main banquet room, tequila tastings in our outdoor pavilion, live artist presentations on summer nights, bring your dog to the club days, tours and excursions throughout Detroit and even events along the Detroit River where members can enjoy a paddle trip around Belle Isle. Outside the the city, our wine society hosts special dinners and trips to other parts of the U.S. and Europe.

Wellness and Athletics

Health and wellness is extremely important at the DAC, and 100 New Things brought fresh programs to this area as well. The club’s historic barbershop is now the Signature Salon, offering a wide range of services for men and women never before seen at the DAC. The Tranquility Spa regularly adapts and adds services and products, and the growing interest in fitness classes has led to some new sessions on “glow” boxing, partners yoga, tai chi and more.

The DAC has developed a member-inspired hockey program, a Madison Milers running group, a new pickleball night, swimming basketball for women, youth squash training and youth bowling. Bike rentals are available for members who want to explore Detroit. There is a new “edge-style fitness challenge” for members looking for a competitive weight-loss program, health lectures, and soon some new healthy cooking events.

Ultimately, bringing together this litany of ongoing innovations is as much about marketing and communications as executing the product development, event creation or facility improvement (the DAC recently renovated its business centers into one of the most innovative spaces in the clubhouse). The keys to success rely on identifying needs and thinking outside of the box for creative solutions, developing and implementing new programs or products, and sharing the results via social media marketing to members and constantly refining your communications to members.

In that way, we can inspire members to think about new things they want, energize our staff to innovate and help our leadership achieve the results they are looking for—a satisfied, engaged, vibrant membership.

Ken Voyles is the director of communications at the Detroit Athletic Club. He can be reached at [email protected].