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From The Catskills to Mohegan Sun Casino

DSCN1560-300x2251It’s not often that my ears perk up during a keynote address, but it happens on that rare occasion when somebody speaks from the heart, and that’s what happened when I heard Mitchell Grossinger Etess speak at a business expo. Yep, he’s the former CEO of one of the world’s most successful casinos, Mohegan Sun. Etess has now taken on a bigger role and is now focusing on the Mohegan Tribe’s outside ventures as CEO of the Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority.

One of his opening lines was “everything I need to know I learned from my grandmother and she only made it through the 6th grade.” That got my full attention. He was talking about family and what made him the guy he is today. He was talking about Jennie Grossinger of the famed Grossinger’s Resort of the Borscht Belt in the Catskills. She is what made the place so wildly popular even thought she had no formal education she had big time people skills. Picture the movie “Dirty Dancing” that’s what Grossinger’s was like. Fun in the sun in the summer.

Etess has been the CEO of Mohegan Sun Casino in Uncasville, Connecticut for more than four years. On January 1, 2011,  he will step aside for a new CEO so he can better concentrate on new business opportunities for the Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority. He says this was something he has wanted to do for some time.

I made an appointment with Etess as soon as I could to see what he meant about that first line of his speech about his beloved Grandmother, because I love knowing what makes people tick.

He told me that running a casino has many similarities to Grossinger’s Resort. He grew up on the grounds of the Catskills playground, he was even married there, and even thought it’s just a memory he continues to mourn its loss. Etess says he was taught from a very young age to greet everyone that came through the front door with kindness and respect. He says that’s ingrained in him, but like me, sees that a lot of graciousness in the world has been lost.

The phone in his office is from Grossinger’s, gotta love that rotary dial, and he has a picture on his office wall of his late Grand Mother, Jennie, known as the Queen of the Catskills. The movie stars and the fighters all frequented Grossinger’s. It was written about all of the time because the stars and the prize fighters attracted the journalists, they came so they would write about them. Watch the video below and you will hear all about Grossingers from the late Joel Siegel about what a big deal spending time at the resort was.

More and more Etess says he’s being asked to talk about his Grandmother. I am in agreement with him that we can learn a lot from the people of the Greatest Generation who rolled up their shirt sleeves and got to work, real hard work, and made things happen especially when it comes to business. Etess says he may write a book about Jennie Grossinger, I think that’s a very good idea, after all his middle name is “Grossinger” and the stars do come to his office everyday, just like they used to when he was a kid.

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