Owners of Northern Lights Resort retire after 17 years
Northern Lights Resort on Dead Lake exchanged owners last week. Mike and Cheryl Harris retired and handed the reins over to Vince and Cheryl Prososki.
In an interview last week with both couples, the Harrises shared highlights of their 17 years as resort owners and the Prososkies talked of their upcoming plans.
"We (resort owners) are a different breed of people," Cheryl Harris said. "You really have to put yourself out there for guests."
The Harrises have also seen times when the guests went above and beyond for their hosts. One such time was after a severe storm on June 20, 2005, when straight-line winds did major damage to the resort property.
The resort was fully booked that week, with 150 guests. After the storm went through, toppling 122 trees in the yard and another 74 trees throughout the woods, the guests at the resort jumped in to help the Harrises with their massive cleanup efforts.
Cheryl said almost all the guests helped. One guest ran into town and bought a chainsaw just so he could help cut trees. Even the kids helped by collecting firewood, searching for pieces of the docks and pulling paddle boats back to shore.
"It was absolutely unbelievable," Cheryl said of the amount of help they got from guests at their resort.
She said it shows how much the guests become like family. Eighty-five percent of Northern Lights guests return year after year. One family's 13-year-old girl spent every one of her birthdays at the resort. Cheryl said watching families grow up and bond has been one of the benefits of being a resort owner.
It all began in 1995 when, as newlyweds, Mike and Cheryl Harris bought a rundown resort, becoming the fifth owners in its history. Established in 1940 with three cabins, Northern Lights Resort has grown with each owner. Under Harris ownership, signs of improvement began right away and continued for 12 years.
From 1995 through 2007, during the off season, the Harrises spent their time fixing up the resort. All 10 cabins were remodeled in some way, and six were completely renovated.
Throughout the years the Harrises added a sandy beach, a bait barn and eight RV campsites. They replaced the old railroad tiles for the boat launch to a more modern ramp that was easier to drive up and down. They also moved the shower building to the campground section after the cabins got bathrooms.
Cheryl recollected how much a fresh coat of exterior paint did for the atmosphere. She said before they painted, cars would drive into the resort loop to check it out, and drive out so fast she wasn't able to get out to talk to them. As soon as she started painting, customer interest rose - along with her taxes, she added with a laugh.
The Harrises said having a resort on Dead Lake has been a real bonus over the years, as Dead Lake is known for its fishing. Guests are able to fish from the dock or from a wide range of boats, including pontoons, canoes and 16-foot aluminum boats.
The transition of Northern Lights Resort to the Prososkis has gone smoothly, the Harrises said. They won't be too far away - just two and half miles down the road in a house they are building along the lake.
The Prososkis are fulfilling a lifelong dream by owning Northern Lights. They both recently quit their day jobs in Delano, Minn., and moved full time to the resort. Cheryl Prososki has 30 years' experience as an accountant, and Vince has worked many years in production. Both love the outdoors.
The Prososkis said they will continue to offer a family-friendly resort experience to new and returning customers. They will also continue the longstanding tradition of free firewood.