BEMIDJI, Minn. — The experience of visiting resorts in Minnesota is often passed down from generation to generation.
The same can be said for many of the families who operate the many getaways in the Bemidji area.
And that's the case for two more area resorts this year, as both the Cass Lake Lodge and the Cedar Rapids Lodge have changed ownership, but have stayed in the hands of the family.
The changes started in January, when Steve and Pat Addler sold the Cedar Rapids Lodge, located about 27 miles northeast of Bemidji, to their daughter Jen Bloomquist and her husband, Marc.
In February, Jim and Kerri Ball sold the Cass Lake Lodge to their son Jason Ball and his wife, Jody.
The ownership exchanges to the next generation were firsts for both families, as the two resorts had other owners in their long histories.
The Cass Lake Lodge, which became a resort in 1916 after being used as housing for railroad workers, was purchased by the Ball family in 2003.
"Buying the resort was something new for them. The Ball family is originally from the northeast corner of Montana. Both of my parents worked in insurance, then when my brother and I finished high school they sold their business," Jason Ball said. "They had grown up on the lake and decided they wanted to be in the resort business. They spent a couple of years traveling, looking for a resort to buy and they chose the Cass Lake Lodge."
The Cedar Rapids Lodge, meanwhile, was built in 1933 and bought by the Addlers in 1987.
"I moved to the resort when I was 13-years-old after having grown up in central Illinois," Bloomquist said. "My dad was manager of a grocery store, but my family had always vacationed in Wisconsin and Minnesota. So, it had been kind of a dream of his to own a resort since he was a kid. They eventually reached a point in their life where they felt it was a 'now or never' kind of thing."
At first, Bloomquist said the move from Illinois to northwest Minnesota felt like her parents were taking her to "the ends of the Earth."
"I was a little bitter, I wouldn't have thought that I would own it at the time. But, once I got married and moved back to the area, my husband and I knew we wanted to stay here," Bloomquist said. "We started having kids and from there it became clear that it was something we were both interested in. It was such a good place to grow up, so we wanted to give that to our children. We wanted our children to have the experience of growing up at the resort and to work together as a family."
Jason Ball also left the region before moving back in 2005 to work for his parents. Around that time, Jason met Jody.
"We'd both been here and were familiar with the place and enjoyed working here and seeing all of our customers," Jason Ball said. "It was something that we always said we'd want to take over from them some day."
Not going far
While they have sold the resorts, both Ball and Bloomquist noted their parents still remain active with the work at the lodges.
"They're still involved a little bit, they still have a house here and still want to spend some time here," Jason Ball said. "They also know a lot of the guests who've been coming here for a lot of years so they continue to enjoy seeing them."
"My parents built their retirement house on the property of the resort," Bloomquist said. "Last summer was our first being fully in charge, but they still wanted to be involved and we wanted them to be involved. They came over every day and helped, which is really special."
Along with having involvement from their parents, the resort owners also said they will largely be running the getaways the same as they had been before.
"Primarily, we want to keep it the same as it's always been, but of course we will occasionally make small changes here and there," Jody Ball said. "We're hoping to tear down some cabins and rebuild them, that kind of stuff. But we want to run it the same and keep everything like it was."
"Sometimes, when you sell a resort, you lose a certain percentage of your customers since they may be worried about the changes that could be made, but we didn't lose anyone," Bloomquist said. "We told guests a year ago that Marc and I were going to be taking over and it was such a sense of comfort for them, they knew there wouldn't be any major changes made and that the resort would keep its same feel."
By keeping those guests coming, Bloomquist said she's getting the chance to see people she knew years ago come back with families of their own.
"We're seeing a bit of a trend, because last summer was the best summer we've had in years," Bloomquist said. "We're seeing a lot of kids who used to come to the resort when we first bought it now grown up and bringing their children back."
"I think keeping the business with the family is great, not just for us, but for all of our guests," Jason Ball said. "A lot of them have been coming for nearly 60 years, and it's neat to see their families grow up. Every year the kids are a year older and we have two boys who've spent their whole lives playing with those kids."
"I think meeting and working with those people is the best part. Seeing the old guests and getting to know the new guests." Jody Ball said. "It's also not an '8 to 5' type of job, either. You never know what you're going to be doing that day."
"It's an exhausting job, but you manage to keep going just because people are always happy when they're there," Bloomquist said. "It's really fun to watch those people make memories with their families."