The off-season routine probably wasn’t quite as routine at Finn ’N Feather Resort this time around.
The Lake Andrusia resort in northern Minnesota was named the 2015 Resort of the Year by the Community of Minnesota Resorts.
But award aside, to get the seasonal resort ready to open the week of the Minnesota fishing opener, routine remains crucial.
“Winter is always for projects. Then in March and April, you have to start getting into cabins,” co-owner Timberly Christiansen said. “The water lines come back on when the ground thaws, and everything has to be up and running by the fishing opener.”
The spring routine is one Christiansen has known most of her life as the resort has been with her family for a few generations. Christiansen said her grandparents purchased the Finn ’N Feather in 1978, after it had already been open under that name for a few years.
The lodge and surrounding cabins were even older; before the name Finn ’N Feather was attached, the resort was called Swedmark’s Lodge and had been in place since the 1920s.
After her grandparents purchased the property, Christiansen’s family moved to the resort from Iowa, and working in the hospitality industry became second nature.
As a family-themed resort, Christiansen said prime time for the property comes in July and August, when many visitors purchase weekly rentals. Meanwhile, the late spring and early fall months are populated by fishermen and retired couples.
“It’s six to eight weeks solid. At one time, you can have more than 100 people during a week,” Christiansen said.
The 42-acre resort can hold a capacity of about 200 people at one time. Guests stay in one of the resort’s 20 cabins that surround the lodge on both sides.
“It’s a 24-hour job. From the time it starts, you have to get in that mode, you have to be on all the time,” Christiansen said. “Sometimes you’re talking with people up here on vacation, letting them know about good fishing spots, and at the same time you’re thinking about all the things you have to work on.”
And, of course, the work continues in the off-season. The resort annually closes in early October, a process that takes about a month-and-a-half. Work includes shutting down water lines, hauling in docks and draining boats. Most years, the resort is completely shut down by the first part of November. After that, Christiansen said it’s time to do bookwork, start a repair list and get Finn ’N Feather ready for another summer season.
Every couple of years, they either tear down a cabin and build a new one or take on a major remodeling project. Their most recent efforts include having the pool re-plastered last year and building a new cabin four years ago.
“In the meantime, it’s the smaller projects,” Christiansen said. “That can be anything from changing a countertop to putting new blacktop on the driveway.”
Also recently, the resort has needed to tap into the digital realm, with Internet for guests and the development of social media marketing.
“We started with having spots they could plug in for Internet and now we have wireless in the lodge and in a couple of the cabins,” Christiansen said.
The day-to-day work through the seasons paid off when the Community of Minnesota Resorts announced Finn ’N Feather as its annual winner for best resort. The award is given during a fall conference — at a resort, of course — and other resort owners nominate the winner.
“It usually goes to a different resort every year; this was the first time we won it,” Christiansen said. “There was a lot of excitement. It (the resort) has been passed down from my grandparents and my parents, and now my kids help. It was seeing all of their work come to fruition, so it was emotional.”
Including her children in the operation of the resort has been rewarding for Christiansen, who said they’ve added their own ideas about activities for visiting families, such as volleyball tournaments and ice cream socials.
“I grew up here, so remembering my perspective from childhood and now seeing my kids do what I did, I love it,” she said. “There are kids who I played with that are grown up and now bringing their children back with them, and their kids are becoming friends with my kids. It’s just great seeing that cycle come back.”
The Finn ’N Feather Resort is located about 10 miles east of Bemidji, Minn. Its lodge is open from 8 a.m.-10 p.m. during the summer. To contact the resort, call 800-776-3466.