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Voyageur's Best Features of 2001

Big Sandy Lodge

Passing the torch
Kare Phree Pines sells, becomes Big Sandy Lodge & Resort
by Cynthia Brekke  |  July 10, 2001

Rumors abounded of a possible sale of the landmark resort, Kare Phree Pines, earlier this spring and wha'dya know, the rumors were true. Marion Stringham has sold out, passing the torch to new owners, Dennis and Arlyce Richardson of Blaine, MN.

For many, this is the end of an era. Marion has been running the resort for some 57 years. Under her management, the facility grew to 21 rooms and 3 apartments in the lodge, 16 seasonal cabins and an indoor, heated pool. The lodge has hosted many a banquet and wedding reception and the cabins see return visitors year after year.

It's not surprising why guests keep coming back. Arriving at Big Sandy Lodge and Resort, the first thing that hits you is the view. It's always been a beautiful location, with the lodge tucked down the hill amongst majestic white and norway pines. Rustic cabins dot the scenery to the left and right of the lodge, along the shoreline and on the ridges, with everything overlooking Davis Bay. The road that leads down to the beach is like a lure to the water. It's a lake-lovers paradise from stem to stern.

Dennis and Arlyce both have businesses they run in the metro area. Dennis is president of a construction finance company and has experience in the field of real estate. Arlyce is a CPA at Richardson, Geslin and Langum, PA. They have two children: 11 year-old Jason and 14 year-old Jessica, who will also be part of the operation. So, in their spare time, they own and oversee Big Sandy Lodge and Resort.

The Richardson's have owned a cabin on Big Sandy Lake since 1998, and would spin by Kare Phree Pines in their boat. Dennis would imagine all the things he would do if he owned the "Pines".

Persistance is the word to describe how the two aquired the property, as they have been making offers for the past five years. With the backing of two 'silent' partners, Jeff Gardner of Shoreview, and Stu Voight (Vikings broadcaster & former MN Viking) of Eagan, Dennis finally had his dream come true.

First order of business was to do a lot of cleaning up inside and out, including the beach area. The cabins are still rustic, and work is being put into them as they go. Right now, the Richardsons are focusing on just getting things operational.

"We want to focus on trying to get the lodge and the restaurant going," says Dennis. "Then we'll figure out what we're going to do with the cabins." So far, it's been a matter of trying to prioritize the most needy and doing whatever the market would justify. But the primary focus is on the lodge. "It's going to be the focal point of the whole area."

The lodge restaurant is open for breakfasts from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m., however the doors are open by 7 a.m. for anyone who wants to have a cup of coffee. Boaters are welcome to moor and come to the lodge. Dinners are served by reservation only.

Docks have been replaced and the future may hold a boat launch, but everything in it's time. The visions are many, but so are the tasks at hand!

Dennis and Arlyce have rounded up a top-notch crew to get the resort up to snuff. Ron and Mary Ellen Richardson have jumped aboard with their son and daughter-in-law in the capacity of 'Operating Managers'. Both are retired... well, sort of... but as Mary Ellen put it: "It's enjoyable because it's so beautiful." The General Manager is Lon Heiden, with Julie Clarkin taking on the accounting. These folks have been very busy preparing and maintaining the resort.

Even the kids are getting into the act, with daughter, Jessica, starting out as a waitress and son, Jason, as dock boy. (He even has an identification card!)

And how does Dennis see the future for Big Sandy Lodge and Resort? He's had plenty of nay-sayers tell him he'd never make it, but he thinks otherwise. People can come in off the lake, drive up or, in the winter, snowmobile in for meals and lodging.

As Dennis finished up our tour, he left us with this thought: "What we're trying to do is provide a service to everybody on the lake that they don't have right now."