Gunflint Lodge sold to new owners
Gunflint Lodge, a staple on the Minnesota-Ontario border since 1925 and owned by the Kerfoot-Spunner family since 1929, has been sold. Bruce and Sue Kerfoot confirmed Wednesday that they sold the resort effective June 15 to John and Mindy Fredrikson.
Gunflint Lodge, a staple on the Minnesota-Ontario border since 1925 and owned by the Kerfoot-Spunner family since 1929, has been sold.
Bruce and Sue Kerfoot confirmed Wednesday that they sold the resort effective June 15 to John and Mindy Fredrikson.
"Their roots are the Dakotas. They worked in the Twin Cities and Atlanta. She's an attorney and he was in electronics, so this is new to them. They had been looking for resorts for about three years," Bruce Kerfoot said of the new owners. "They've been guests here. They were doing their homework and looking at (other Gunflint Trail resorts) and finally they decided to go all-in and buy our place."
Gunflint Lodge went up for sale in 2013 with an asking price of $6.8 million for what is among northern Minnesota's largest resort operations - with cabins, a lodge building, 125 beds, gourmet restaurant, horseback riding, ski trails, a zip line between white pine trees and 100 acres of prime lakeshore real estate overlooking the Ontario shore across Gunflint Lake.
"It was in the 6's but a little less than we originally asked," Kerfoot, 77, said of the sale price.
The business also includes Gunflint Northwoods Outfitters, canoe outfitters that can handle 200 campers at a time.
Bruce Kerfoot said he will stay on for at least 60 days to help out and longer if needed, "but by then they'll be tried of me."
"Three generations, a lot of years. A lot of roots," Kerfoot said, adding that he and Sue may travel in winters but will return to the Gunflint Trail every summer. "We might wander and play, but these are our roots.''
In addition to running a successful business, the Kerfoots have been praised for their volunteer efforts building the Chik-Wauk Museum and Nature Center and building up the Gunflint Trail Volunteer Fire Department and ambulance service.
Bruce and Sue are in their second stint running Gunflint Lodge, first taking over from Bruce's mother, Gunflint Trail pioneer Justine Kerfoot, in the late 1960s. They handed operations over to a son, Lee, in 2001, but took back control in 2008.
Over the years Bruce and Sue transformed the historic fishing resort and canoe trip outfitting business into an upscale year-round, full-service resort, winterizing the main lodge in the early 1990s and marketing winter trips to cross-country skiers. Since then the Gunflint Trail has become a winter destination and Gunflint Lodge has found a niche among high-end tourists willing to spend more for a more-refined vacation in the north woods - from hot tubs and horseback riding to a five-star restaurant.
In 2012 the Kerfoots opened a $400,000 zip line canopy tour, the first of its kind in the Northland, and Kerfoot said the business has been growing at double-digits in recent years.
It's that success that led to the 2013 announcement from the Minnesota Resort & Campground Association that the Kerfoots had been inducted into the Minnesota Hospitality Hall of Fame.
Bruce was born in a log cabin at the resort and has lived most of his life on the Gunflint Trail. A Cornell University graduate, he has served on state and national tourism organizations and was a player in the battle over establishing the current makeup of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. Sue is a native of the Chicago area.
Dora Blankenburg and her son, Russell, started Gunflint Lodge in 1925. In 1929 Mae Spunner from Illinois and her daughter, Justine, bought the resort - at the time comprised of a very small lodge building with a store selling supplies to local Native Americans and fishing tackle to guests, plus a dining room to serve meals. Justine eventually married Bill Kerfoot, the son of the president of Hamline University, in 1934. The couple ran the resort until Bruce and Sue Kerfoot took over in the 1960s.