Progress Edition 2022: Generations of families benefit from Whitefish Chain, including owners

Holidays on the Whitefish chain, though modernized, have remained virtually unchanged for nearly a century.

The list of amenities has grown and the toys have gotten bigger, but some of the same stations remain since they opened in the 1930s or 40s.

“It sounds strange, but several years ago we installed air conditioning and (before that) we had no air conditioning,” said Mike Schwieters, owner of Boyd Lodge on Lower Whitefish and Rush lakes.

Ruth and Mike Schwieters

Mike Schwieters and his wife, Ruth, in early August 2022.

Megan Buffington/EchoJournal

Schwieters saw the modernization by resorting firsthand. His maternal grandfather, Lynn Boyd, opened the station in 1945, starting with a tent cabin and slowly building more. When Schwieters’ grandparents were killed in a car accident in 1966, her mother returned with her family to the resort town where she had grown up. Schwieters grew up in a time of resort boom. He saw the installation of the first swimming pool at Boyd Lodge. When he finally took over, he helped lead the resort’s expansion, adding seven new cabins and a main office and store with a small gathering space to join the 17 three- to five-bedroom cabins.

“Everything is bigger and better. We have dishwashers and gas grills instead of charcoal grills and air-conditioned, screened porches,” Schwieters said. “This stuff has changed, but the feel of when you’re here hopefully has stayed a bit the same.”

Schwieters is one of many to run a family resort on the Whitefish chain. Every station in the chain is privately owned and operated, with most having been in the family for at least two generations.

Compared to the rest of the lake, Karen and Dan Scholz, Beacon Shores Resort, is relatively new to the resort business. They have owned the resort for 21 years and were guests of the resort for 23 years prior, beginning in 1978 with senior travel by Karen and two of her friends.

The Scholzes saw the same demand for more and better at their two-unit resort on Lower Whitefish Lake, just down the road from Boyd Lodge.

“When (Karen) first came here, a boat came with the cabin. So they rowed, and that’s what you did. That was it,” Dan Scholz said.

“They want more than that,” Karen Scholz said.

“Now you rent pontoons and you rent fishing boats,” Dan Scholz said. “And fishing boats can’t be little rowboats; they must have a depth sounder and a living well.

Even though customers often ask for more, the stations have retained their unique character.

“There’s such a variety of resorts and styles in our area that if anyone really wants super rustic, they can do it,” Schwieters said. “If they want the spa treatment, they can find it.”
It seems particularly on the Whitefish channel, once a family finds the resort that suits them, they will be customers for decades. Some resorts have been welcoming the same families for five generations.

“One of the things we’ve learned when you use resorts is that almost all of our customers are repeat customers. They come back year after year and you get incredibly close to the families,” Dan Scholz said. “You watch the generations turn and grow, and they almost become an extended part of your family.”

The Scholzes have been invited to numerous weddings and funerals. More than anything, they saw commitments.

“It’s amazing. It’s like, ‘This is my favorite place; this is where I want to get engaged,'” Dan Scholz said. Special.”

With so many years together and a tight-knit community at resorts, owners and customers create real bonds unlike any other business relationship. Family themes surround everything in the resorts.

You watch the generations turn and grow, and they almost become an extended part of your family.

Dan Scholz

“When COVID happened, which was kind of a cool reset, it was families that kind of took it for granted that you could just hang out together, all of a sudden (couldn’t),” said Schwieters said. “All of a sudden people were like, ‘Hey, family is kind of a priority, and when she wasn’t there, we really missed it.'”

So families flocked to where they felt closest: the resorts. Schwieters said people across the state are looking to take a post-pandemic vacation. Often, they did it to find the people who matter most to them.

When the COVID-19 pandemic began in March 2020, Beacon Shores experienced significant cancellations. However, in July 2020, when people were tired of the closures, Beacon Shores was full for the rest of the summer and even into the early fall. Most resorts have seen very similar trends.

At Boyd Lodge, the pandemic has presented a new opportunity. Because they didn’t know what summer would be like, they went from their usual model of renting for a week in the summer to allowing any reservations. At the same time, they told their many loyal customers that if they weren’t comfortable coming that summer, their place would still be blocked for the following year.

The removal of the weekly rental rule has resulted in an influx of new customers looking to get away for just a few days. But, like many before them, once they stayed, new customers were eager to return. That made planning for next summer a challenge, but Schwieters said it was a good problem to have.

“Some we were able to accommodate, some we had to move to different weeks or something to make things work,” Schwieters said.

While Boyd Lodge has resumed week-long rentals for the summer months, Schwieters predicts it will have to allow short-term rentals again in the future as people work more and vacation less.

“I remember when I was growing up here, there were a lot of people who (stayed) for two weeks. There were some weeks where almost everyone stayed for two weeks,” Schwieters said. “And now it’s super rare. There’s a ton of pressure to move to shorter stays.

Weekly rentals allow the resort to save on cleaning costs, but part of it also preserves tradition.

As vacations and the Whitefish chain become more extravagant, resorts are moving away from their roots as simple lakeside getaways. Many resort owners want to preserve this history. A certain simplicity, however, gets old.

“When we tore down the old 1940s shacks, it was kind of, pull a nail, wipe away a tear, because we really loved that old, little resort feel that we loved as guests,” said Dan. “And we tried to maintain it for as long as we could.”

When the Scholzes purchased Beacon Shores, there were 10 cabins, original to the resort. Despite their best efforts, few vacationers wanted to stay in outdated cabins in need of repair.

“We couldn’t fill all 10 cabins because they were older, and we couldn’t afford the property,” Dan Scholz said. “We had to make a difficult decision. I would have preferred to keep the whole property. I really would have, especially the old cabins. But that was not what consumers wanted today.”

When the Scholzes purchased Beacon Shores Resort, the goal was to retire there. As they approached retirement age, this meant no longer doing scheduled resort activities or running a resort store. But for resort owners, having an exit strategy can be difficult.

If (people) want to continue to have family stations, they have to support them. Family resorts are in some sort of turmoil (or) transition.

Dan Scholz

“How do you get out? It’s a bit like owning a farm,” said Dan Scholz. “It’s worth so much, (but) no one but a farmer or someone who’s going to tear it all down and build houses is going to buy it.”

To keep the resort they loved, both as customers and now owners, the Scholzes had to downsize.

“It was either tearing down and building new ones, which is what so many[stations]or go to something like we did and scale down and then start enjoying it more,” Dan Scholz said. “Because we don’t want this to end. We don’t want this to end. disappear.”

It’s not just Beacon Shores that Dan Scholz is concerned about preserving.

“If (people) want to continue to have family stations, they have to support them. Family resorts are in some kind of turmoil (or) transition,” he said. “If you want to keep having that, you have to do it once in a while. If you do it once every 10 years, it may not be enough for them. Support us, then we will do our best to support you and make it great.

Echo Journal reporter Megan Buffington can be reached at megan.buffington@pineandlakes.com. She graduated from Pequot Lakes High School in 2021 and attends the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.


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