Moorhead natives living dream of running Walker northwoods resort
WALKER - Steve Krogen and Shay Fortier had both dreamt of becoming resort owners, but they "needed a little push." Unfortunately, that push came as a shove when they both lost their jobs in the corporate world.
WALKER – Steve Krogen and Shay Fortier had both dreamt of becoming resort owners, but they “needed a little push.” Unfortunately, that push came as a shove when they both lost their jobs in the corporate world.
The Moorhead natives, who went to school together, had recently reconnected after losing touch and were in the middle of a whirlwind romance when they got the news in 2001.
Fortier’s position with Aveda was eliminated when Estee Lauder purchased the business. Krogen’s employer of 20 years, Fairway Foods, went out of business. In the meantime, the couple had agreed to marry.
Six months after they married, they bought Adventure North Resort on Leech Lake here, in the northwoods of Minnesota. Now in their 16th summer as resort owners, they’ve thought of every last detail, down to their renters’ preferred bait.
“You learn something every year,” Fortier says, giving visitors a tour of the 9-acre property.
But it was a big risk.
- What: Adventure North Resort
- Owners: Steve Krogen and Shay Fortier
- Where: 4444 Point Landing Drive N.W., Walker, Minn.
- Hours: Open year-round
- Online: www.adventurenorthresort.com
- Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org or (800) 294-1532
“Everything we had, combined, plus a little more, went for the down payment,” Krogen says. “I mean, everything.”
Every resort goes through a transition when new owners take over, but Krogen and Fortier had an especially challenging first few years when hungry cormorants caused a dramatic reduction in the walleye population, deterring fishermen.
Their first weekend, they cleaned about 500 fish in their on-site bait shop. The second year, they only cleaned about 100. Opening weekend of the third year, the number dropped down to about 10. But they kept at it, turning their attention toward families.
“We thought with the pool and the swimming beach, families were what we should try to be stressing, which really helped when the fishing went down,” he says. “As long as the kids are happy, mom and dad are happy.”
Besides the pool and beach, Adventure North Resort offers a covered harbor, fishing guides and boat rentals. The seven cabins range from the cozy one-bedroom Beach House to the Cedars log home, which can accommodate up to 22 people.
Krogen, 56, and Fortier, 52, live at the resort year-round. Rental rates go down a little as the season winds down. In January and February, Krogen offers ice-fishing, with six ice houses.
“We’re just about full almost every weekend” those months, he says.
The owners’ customer service backgrounds are apparent in the way they operate their resort.
“Have you ever walked into a hotel, motel, resort, and you open the doors and felt like, ‘Ahhh, this is better than expected’? You know that feeling?” Fortier says. “We said that’s what we want people to feel when they come to our cabins. A little something extra – a little more than what they expected.”
When guests check in, their dock assistants or harbor techs unload their vehicle, put their boat in the water for them, put it in their slip, put the trailer in storage and bring their vehicle back to their cabin, cleaned by Fortier and her cleaning staff.
“If we can make somebody’s day, with just one little thing, that’s what we want to do,” Krogen says.
Their attention to detail has paid off. On Saturdays – “changeover day” – guests check out at 9 a.m., and new groups start coming in at 3. Of the 60 people who arrive between 3 and 5 p.m., Krogen and Fortier know the names of 45 to 55 of them.
Returning guests become like family to the couple, who don’t have children of their own.
“We’ve been watching these kids grow up, and now they’re in college,” Krogen says.
They also report a sense of community among the area’s other resort owners.
“In 2009, Minnesota had about 915 resorts, and in 2014, it was down to 800,” he says, gently steering a new pontoon into the bay. “Well, there are a lot of choices out there for families. We want to make sure we keep the resorts open so the public has that access to lakes and the old traditions.”
By Meredith Holt, Forum News Service