Closing is last resort for Pelican Rapids destination
There are fewer resorts in the state than when Ron and JoAnn Bina took over Galaxy Resort on Star Lake, but they are determined not to become another statistic.
"We're dedicated to the fact that we're going to keep it as a resort," Ron Bina said. "We like it and our children have taken a big interest in it. I don't know what I would tell (customers) if I should happen to close."
There are 925 resorts in Minnesota, said Dave Siegel, Minnesota Resort and Campground Association executive vice president. At one time, there were more than 2,500, he said.
"As lake shore value has increased dramatically, it becomes an untenable business model in some cases," he said.
Because a resort's value is mostly in its land, if an owner decides to retire, the resort can be divided into lots and sold as lake homes, the cabins can be sold to individual owners or the resort can be sold to a large resort that manages several facilities, Siegel said.
Galaxy Resort has been a Pelican Rapids-area staple since 1945 when Ernie and Luella Pederson of Dent built the 11-cabin lakeside resort.
The Binas have owned and operated the business for almost 30 years.
"We worked like everything to retain the clientele," Ron Bina said. "The place had changed hands numerous times, and people were getting kind of fed up with it."
The Binas know their clients by name and have become close friends with many of them.
The Galaxy has 85 to 90 percent return business and 40 percent of clients book their next year's vacation when they leave, Bina said.
"It becomes a family place to call your own," said Zaundra Bina, Ron and JoAnn Bina's daughter.
Jim and Kathy Griess of Fremont, Neb., have rented a cabin at Galaxy Resort for 20 years.
"The people and the community are just really great," Kathy Griess said. "We go the same week every year. It's the same group of people, so it's kind of like a big family."
The Griesses spend the last week in July fishing, boating, swimming, playing games and, of course, participating in an annual bass tournament complete with a trophy and turkey fry.
"It's just a really good time," Griess said.
Since taking over Galaxy Resort, the Binas put in a beach and took out a dock house that spoiled the view from the restaurant.
They recently added a snack bar and tiki bar.
This spring, they remodeled the restaurant and dining area with new flooring, ceiling, paint, tabletops and chairs. Old photographs from the resort's past adorn the dining area's walls.
The restaurant, known for its broasted chicken and pork chops, serves many local customers - cabin renters only make up about 10 to 15 percent of the clientele, Ron Bina said. It also has a lot of boat-up traffic.
"In the summer, we'll go through 400 pounds of chicken in a week," he said. "In the spring of the year, people just keep calling, wondering, 'When is it going to be chicken opener?' That's what they say."
The restaurant is closed January to mid-March.
The cabins have basically stayed the same, with some redecorating and modifications - such as new foundations, roofs and decks.
The economy has not hurt the resort, Bina said.
"We are basically for all intents and purposes an inexpensive vacation," he said.
Weekly rates range from $585 to $950, depending on the cabin and time of year.
Siegel expects Minnesota resorts to have a very good summer.
"People are looking for something authentic," he said. "That idea of staying on a cabin on a lake ... the feeling in that is very special."