For Elizabeth Morrissey Brown, hospitality is first priority

Updated: November 23

It’s been a tumultuous six years for Morrissey Hospitality.

When company founder Bill Morrissey died of leukemia in 2016, it was unclear what the future was for the firm, which runs restaurants, hotels and event centers.

Ownership was transferred to Morrissey’s three children — Arthur, Chris and Elizabeth — but their dad left some huge shoes to fill.

Elizabeth Morrissey Brown, 33, currently the vice president of business development and marketing for the company, didn’t even start working for Morrissey Hospitality until 2018. We recently caught up with her as the company continues to grow, despite a lingering pandemic and lots of industry change.

Morrissey Brown started her hospitality career outside of her dad’s company. She was a wine and spirits distributor for Johnson Bros. This was after attending college in Colorado.

“I didn’t really know these cities as an adult, let alone as a business professional,” Morrissey Brown said. “I credit that time in liquor distribution with helping me get to know the hospitality industry. It was a wonderful learning experience and provided me with immense professional growth.”

She’s still in that learning phase, working under president Richard Dobransky, a 30-year hospitality industry veteran.

The two of them have overseen some recent rapid growth for the company, which had signed on five new restaurants just before the pandemic hit. Throughout 2020, they kept their heads down and did what they could to muddle through.

“We are fortunate that our company, the majority of us survived,” Morrissey Brown said.

As local businesses “started poking their heads up,” Morrissey Brown said, the company was in a unique position to help struggling restaurants and hotels build back — better.

“As we were having conversations and sharing best practices with people, what we found was a great opportunity to assist other hospitality businesses,” she said. “Many restaurants and hotels are stretched too thin. We started to find ways to complement each others’ businesses.”

That meant starting an a la carte suite of services — from HR to accounting to finance services.

“It’s a lot to offer in a one-stop shop,” Morrissey Brown said.

The strategy paid off with lots of new clients. In fact, over the past three years, the company’s portfolio has tripled in size.

Since the pandemic, the company has added Admiral D’s Waterfront Tavern in White Bear Lake, Freight House in Stillwater, New Bohemia locations in St. Paul and Plymouth, Seventh Street Truck Park in St. Paul and the recently opened Momento in St. Paul.

And just last month, Morrissey announced it would take over the Water Street Inn in Stillwater.

All in all, the company manages 19 brands, including The St. Paul Hotel and St. Paul Gril, Tria in North Oaks and the St. Paul River Center.

Morrissey said the recent growth has been rapid, and the company isn’t necessarily looking for new clients at the moment.

“For this year, we’re looking to slow the roll. However, we always love to sell and create guest experiences for people,” Morrissey said.

She said she’s proud of what the company has been able to achieve despite the upheaval.

“My father was my mentor … and this is about continuing his mission, vision and the culture he created. What makes Morrissey different from other companies is that we pride ourselves on being stewards of the hospitality industry, we are known for our service and we also pride ourselves on longevity of our clients,” Morrissey said. “We want to be exceptional every time. That’s our mission statement and that’s our standard.”

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