May 19, 2006: Fargo Forum- BY JONATHAN KNUTSON
Guests will have scenic views of the lake from their rooms in The Lodge on Lake Detroit, which opens this weekend. Photos by Dave Wallis / The Forum
After 15 years, family opens their dream resort on Big Detroit Lake
Detroit Lakes, Minn.- The Lodge on Lake Detroit, a family project 15 years in the making, opens this week.. The 55-room, 13-suite hotel at 1200 E. Shore Drive on the north shore of Big Detroit Lake and along Highway 10,is gearing up for a Memorial Day weekend general opening. The hotel – which promotes itself as providing a resort-style atmosphere for families – has its first paying guests this weekend.
"We're so excited. Our family has been thinking about and working on this project for a long time," said Chris Mehlhaff, who will oversee the hotel with her husband, Scott.
Also involved in the project are John and Kathy Holland, Chris Mehlhaff's parents.
The family has more than half a century of hotel experience in Detroit Lakes.
In 1953 John Holland's father, Emil, opened what's now the Best Western Holland House and Suites in Detroit Lakes.
John and his wife, Kathy, joined the business in 1968. Daughter Chris grew up in the family business, which today includes a Best Western Hotel in Grand Marais, Minn.
Chris and Scott Mehlhaff joined the family operation in 1991 – about the same time the family began thinking about building a hotel on The Lodge on Lake Detroit site.
"We knew the site has so much possibility," John Holland said.
Over the years, the family acquired land on the site, including the former Castaway Hotel & Resort.
The Mehlhaffs operated Castaway until last year, when it was torn down and construction of The Lodge on Lake Detroit began.
Some of the rooms in The Lodge on Lake Detroit include a spa tub, fireplace and flat-screen television.
All 55 rooms in the three-story hotel look out on the lake.
The hotel includes a private dock, spa, fitness room, bar, 1,370-foot meeting room, swimming area and 550 feet of shoreline, including 150 feet of sandy beach.
Holland said the lakefront property is worth about $2 million, with hotel construction costing about $5 million.
Rooms cost $129 to $249 per night.
Advance booking is strong, Chris Mehlhaff said.
The Lodge is independent, which Mehlhaff said provides greater freedom in building and operating the hotel.
"We want to create a special atmosphere," she said.
A few examples: handcrafted wood chairs, sculpture and other creations from area artists and convenient plug-ins for the breathing machines of guests suffering from sleep apnea.
The hotel will have 25 to 30 employees, nine or 10 of them full time. Melissa Kroshus serves as general manager.
Dave Hochhalter, president of the Detroit Lakes Chamber of Commerce, said the new hotel should draw more people to the community.
"It will be a real showcase for Detroit Lakes," he said.
Detroit Lakes has 537 rooms, according to the chamber.
Holland said Detroit Lakes didn't need another traditional hotel.
"We're not trying to take customers away from the hotels already here. We're trying to attract new people to Detroit Lakes," particularly families looking for a resort, he said.
The number of resorts in Minnesota has fallen from about 4,000 in the 1960s to less than 1,000, reflecting the increased cost of operating them.
"We're very much interested in providing a resort-style experience for families," Mehlhaff said.
She said the hotel should do well year-round, not just during the warm-weather months.
"Detroit Lakes is a real four-season community," she said.
Scott Mehlhaff and other family members said the final days before the hotel opens are stressful, hectic and rewarding.
"To have worked so long for this and now being almost ready to open – it's an amazing feeling," he said.