The San Marino Club is one of the most exclusive in Detroit. You can only join if you were born in San Marino, the smallest republic in the world, or descended from someone who was.
You can, however, take advantage of one of the best banquet facilities in the area, where members demand old-world quality and service. They'll also share their unique ambience for conventions and business meetings.
When the Club was renovated recently, the firm of Art-Harrison of Birmingham was chosen. The designer's other local clients include former Pistons star Joe Dumars, and Niemann-Marcus.
"There were so many strong features in the Club to build on-the huge lobby, the stone fireplace, the enormous skylight, the marble floor-we only had to find a common thread," says Barry Harrison, who teamed with Arturo Sanchez for the renovation.
The entrance hall posed a particular challenge. With a 20' high ceiling, proportion was critical. "When we presented the idea that 'bigger is better,' the Club was hesitant, but in the end they put their faith in us," Harrison explained. Art-Harrison selected or had made-to-order oversized furniture to fill it. The large central table was custom-built in California. The redesigned room has a wide staircase that curves around an antique grand piano on the left, a back wall filled with a huge fireplace topped by the country's crest and motto ("I free you from any man"
), and a King Arthur-sized table in the center of the room, resting on a polished marble floor.
"Your first impression when arriving is crucial," says Mauro Bianchini, one of the members of the Club's renovation committee. "It sets the tone for the entire function. If you have a small, dark, or crowded space, you think, 'This event won't be anything out of the ordinary.' But when you walk into the San Marino Club, you feel at once that you're in a special place, and it raises your expectations to a new level. Here, you get Country Club treatment at a public facility."
Art-Harrison also showcased articles from the Club's museum in the entrance hall, including a letter from Abraham Lincoln to the country of San Marino, and the Club's historic stamp collection (San Marino was among the first countries in the world to print stamps). "This is not just a banquet facility, it is a Social Club, too," Arturo Sanchez said. "The items from their museum not only reflect San Marino's history, but they also make it a unique venue for any kind of banquet or meeting."
Club manager Ron Vendittelli was hired in 1976 when the Club was built. He comes from a family of chefs, caterers and restaurant owners. "My mom was the original cook here," laughs Vendittelli, "but she's long since retired. The two people who replaced her, Steve and Pierina, have been here more than twenty years." The coordination and teamwork born of such collaboration is difficult to price, but it shows up at all the functions hosted by the Club.
The heart of the facility is designed for business meetings, conventions, and ceremonies. Room capacity ranges from 50 to 800 people, with four bars and a staff capable of delivering up to 800 hot meals at the same time, all prepared from scratch the same day. The members wouldn't have it any other way.
"It's their Social Club that makes them different," affirms Harrison. "For the Sammarinesi, this is not only their Club, it's their cultural center, their second home. When you go there, you feel like your grandmother is taking care of you. It's the warmth of someone who cares."
Sidebar: Contact info
The San Marino Club
Business meetings/banquets, 50-800 people
1685 East Big Beaver
Troy, MI 48083
Manager: Ron V.
Tel. 248 xxx xxxx
Fax 248 xxx xxxx
Web site www.sanmarinoclub.