Preparation, planning key to pleasing Grand View guests

Keeping 1,000 guests happy, particularly when everyone seems to get hungry at about the same time, three times every day, takes preparation, planning and a dedicated staff.

Guests walk to the Glacial Waters Spa at Grand View Lodge on Gull Lake. (Kelly Humphrey, Brainerd Dispatch)
Guests walk to the Glacial Waters Spa at Grand View Lodge on Gull Lake. (Kelly Humphrey, Brainerd Dispatch)

Keeping 1,000 guests happy, particularly when everyone seems to get hungry at about the same time, three times every day, takes preparation, planning and a dedicated staff.

Yet, the most noticeable surface vibe to observers at Grand View Lodge Golf Resort and Salon on a recent August morning was one of serene relaxation. Guests ambled around the beautiful grounds in front of the main lodge with cups of fresh brewed coffee in their hands. A mother and her children played bocce ball while two kids tried their hand at shuffleboard. Inside the old lodge guests fingered the merchandise in a gift shop and teens plopped into comfortable chairs amidst the dark wood walls while parents made arrangements for their leisure-filled day.

Choices abound for those seeking an active vacation at Grand View, according to Frank "Chip" Soukup, director of marketing. They include beach yoga, golf, water tubing, wine tasting, fishing or s'mores at the bonfire. Guests want a variety of activities to be available, even if they eventually choose to sit on their porch, Soukup said.

"You've got to have stuff to do so people can have the excuse to do nothing," he said.

Beneath the surface, Grand View employees moved quickly and quietly to make sure that rooms are cleaned, meals are prepared and flowers are watered so that another day on Gull Lake provides the perfect setting for activities or summer loafing. Young men washed down the concrete near the pool area in preparation for those who would soon be up for lakeside lounging with a good book. Employees were already renting Jet Skis to the more adventurous guests and guiding youngsters onto a pontoon for a fishing expedition.


The Grand View employees include Brainerd area residents and between 100 and 150 students from locations such as Romania and Bulgaria. Employee housing is available for the international students.

There is 1,500 feet of sandy beach at the main beach with nearby east side beach offering another 1,000 feet of beachfront.

There are lots of moving parts to keep assignments running smoothly at the height of Grand View's busy summer season. Soukup said the facility can accommodate 1,000 people and when the resort is at its busiest, the work force can approach 1,000 as well.

Grand View has a team of chefs and seven fully functioning restaurants. They are the Grand View Lodge Dining Room, Cru Restaurant and Wine Bar, Northwoods Pub, Loony's Beach Pub, Italian Gardens Restaurant, Freddy's Grille and the Preserve Pub and Grill. For those whose appetite calls for a little something extra during the day there is M.V. Baker's Mercantile where scones, pastries and breakfast sandwiches are sold along with Caribou coffee and the Chocolate Ox, which features candy and an ice cream happy hour from 7 to 9 p.m.

At about 9:30 a.m., on a recent August morning, while late-risers were still enjoying the breakfast buffet, Mike Manders, resort executive chef, was preparing salads for lunch time at the main lodge. He's a hands-on chef even though he's also responsible for planning, preparation and directing the many food vendors who wind their way in and out of Grand View in delivery trucks.

Freshness is a priority, according to Soukup. Produce comes from nearby St. Mathias Farm, ducks and chickens come from Pequot Lakes, walleye from Red Lake and beef for steaks from Cannon Falls.

Just a short walk from the lodge is the Italian Gardens Restaurant, located in a vintage building that was a gift shop in the 1960s. Italian Gardens is open for dinner only. It specializes in family or what Soukup termed "Mama Mia style."

"They keep bringing plates out until you're full," he said.


Behind the Italian Gardens is a quiet green space where an employee was tending to grape plants. This area, known as the Vineyard, is a wedding site and a quiet place for guests to wander through if they want to get away from the commotion and fun at the beach. The beauty of having 650 acres, Soukup said, is that pockets of quiet exist even at a busy resort.

"You can find a little privacy if you need it," he said.

Cru Restaurant and Wine Bar boasts a wine cellar with more than 2,000 bottles of wine from California's Napa region, France, Argentina and other locations. Twenty-five bottles of wine are available by the glass. Cru was recently recognized for its wine service by Wine Spectator. Grand View even offers its own signature label of Cabernet and Chardonnay, with the labels usually created by Brainerd area artists.

Jim Benson, director of operations at the resort, said the wine cellar is kept at 56 degrees.

It's not just the everyday vacationeers who keep the Grand View Lodge staff busy. Special events such as conferences and weddings are booked almost continuously in the summer. Soukup said more than 80 weddings had already been conducted at the resort by the first week of August. The iconic grand stairway leading from the lake to Grand View Lodge is the site of most of the weddings. Soukup said that on a recent weekend that specific location saw three weddings on Friday, three weddings on Saturday and one on Sunday.

During weddings, the non-wedding guests are guided to alternate routes to the lake, since access to the stairway is restricted. No one seems to mind, he said, noting the other guests enjoy catching a glimpse of the bride-to-be.

In the 1960s and 1970s Grand View was popular among tennis enthusiasts. For 20 years the resort's name was Grand View Lodge and Tennis Club. Even today, the courts are still used by guests. Former Brainerd High School tennis coach Ellen Fussy conducts lessons for those who want to improve their game.

But golf is the big draw for the resort industry these days, Soukup said. The lodge's Pines Course offers 27 holes and the Preserve features 18 holes.


"Golf is a huge, huge driver of the economy to the area," he said.

The Preserve will close in late September for renovation, Soukup said.

Grand View Lodge's two conference centers, the Norway Conference Center and the Gull Lake Conference Center, offer sites for both business and social events throughout the year. The Norway Conference Center, built on the site of original historic inn, was built in 1984. The 25,000-square-foot Gull Lake Conference Center was built in 2009. It includes ballroom space, breakout rooms and can meet the needs of groups up to 500.

In the winter time, the normal number of guests is between 600 to 850, Soukup said. It's particularly busy on the Brainerd Jaycees Ice Fishing Extravaganza weekend and on long holiday weekends. When the temperatures drop Grand View's employees offer sleigh rides, dog sled rides and shuttle rides to Mount Ski Gull.

"We still do big numbers on the long (winter) weekends," Soukup said.

Glacial Waters Spa offers a variety of services for the resort guest. It opened in 2002.

To ensure their guests' security, Grand View employees keep their eyes on what's going on around the clock. The desk is staffed 24 hours a day and security is on the site throughout the night.

It's been a good summer according to Soukup and Mark Ronnei, general manager of the resort. Ronnei said that since the middle of June the resort has been close to full, nearly every day. Soukup said the last two years have seen "historic number" in terms of the number of guests. For a five- to seven-day summer stay, it's been necessary for guests to book their rooms four to five months in advance.


He said in the last two years or so, Grand View Lodge has reinvested $4 million back into the resort and golf courses.

Housekeeping is offered for all of Grand View's rooms and cabins and the staff works around the schedules of the vacationing guests.

"The housekeeping staff are the unsung heroes," Soukup said. "They don't hear it enough."

The golf courses each have their own maintenance staffs. There is a property staff that maintains the resort and a floral staff of three to four people. All of the shifts have to be covered during a period that includes seven days a week.

The resort has even hired a historian to mark the resort's upcoming 100th anniversary in 1916. The cottage belonging to M.V. Baker, the Minneapolis real estate developer who bought the Grand View property for $43 an acre in April of 1916, is still standing and is being turned into a history center.

Soukup said the resorts run deep and are closely linked with the surrounding communities.

"We are Nisswa and Nisswa is Grand View," he said.

Resort name: Grand View Lodge Golf Resort and Spa.


Year founded: 1916.

Owners: Cote Family Companies.

Number of employees: Up to 1,000 depending on the season.

Size in acres: 650 acres.

How many people it can accommodate overnight: 1,000.

Little known facts: Selected in 1979 for the National Registry of Historic Places, the lodge cannot be altered by construction and only materials authentic to the early 1900s may be used.

What sets it apart: Rated 4.5 stars from Trip Advisor; Star Tribune's 2014 Best Girlfriend Getaway, 2013 Best Resort for Kids, 2012 Best Resort for Families in Minnesota, Top five resorts in Midwest, Minnesota Bride's Best Honeymoon Location (three consecutive years). Its Cru Wine Bar earned the 2014 Wine Spectator Award of Excellence.


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