On July 20th, 2007, our family’s life totally changed. After months of agonizing waiting, we closed on the sale of Bearskin Lodge on the Gunflint Trail.
The past month has been mostly a blur. Overnight, we went from being two teachers on summer vacation to full-fledged resort owners, operating one of the most distinguished resorts in Minnesota during the prime busy season. We had to “hit the ground running,” as they say, and there hasn’t been much of chance to stop for a breath ever since. Almost hourly, maybe even minute by minute, we learn more about how much we don’t know.
When Joan Farnam of the Cook County News Herald interviewed us after our first week at Bearskin, one of her questions was, “What has surprised you the most?” I babbled some inane drivel about how nice everyone had been, how helpful people were, how much we had to learn, and how hard we had to work–all very true comments, but embarrassingly Miss America-like in their lack of profundity and depth.
I kept thinking about it and Joan, if you’d ask me now, I have a better answer. What has surprised us most is the deep level of historical connection so many families have to Bearskin Lodge. We had no idea. Week after week we meet multi-generational families who have been coming to Bearskin for years, even decades. So many grandparents with their children and grandchildren, repeating Bearskin traditions that have endured for years. The woman whose parents honeymooned in the original lodge 51 years ago. The teenagers who point out album pictures of themselves as toddlers on Bearskin’s sandy beach. The couple who celebrate every anniversary in their special cabin, the one where they held their wedding. Every week this resort is filled with people whose memories of Bearskin are a significant part of their lives. To all of them, Bearskin is “their” resort.
That is a happy realization for us, but actually, there is a level of responsibility involved that is quite terrifying. Responsibility is a huge part of the package that came with buying this resort. We always knew we had a responsibility to our own family to avoid making a financial mistake that would affect our family’s future. We also realized early on that we had a responsibility to our employees to make sure their jobs were secure and their workplace was happy and safe. But the new realization is the responsibility we have to all the people whose life memories and family rituals are entwined in Bearskin Lodge, who feel a sense of ownership and involvement in their special place. It would be a huge loss to many families if “their” Bearskin wasn’t the same for them over time.
Sometimes when I watch the multiple generations of families together at Bearskin, it makes me almost weep with happiness for them. We “get it.” We will take our responsibility to make sure Bearskin continues to be that kind of family place very seriously.