Progress: ‘All hands on deck’ — One family and one lifelong dream runs Perham resort
“The fishing was awesome, and my grandpa fell in love with the place," said Andrew Tischer, owner of Char-Mac Resort. "So then every year after that, we came.”
Editor's Note: The following originally appeared in the 2023 Perham Progress magazine, which was included as a free insert in a February 2023 issue of the Focus. Read the magazine in its entirety HERE online.
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Off the shore of Little Pine Lake sits the four homey cabins and patio of Char-Mac Resort, a staple of the Perham summer tourism industry for decades. In front of the cabins is a cozy family home — the home of the family who happens to own Char-Mac Resort: Andrew and Jenny Tischer. With their three kids, Elizabeth, Wyatt and Eve, they’re the hands and minds behind the functioning of the resort.
“(We do) literally everything,” Andrew joked. “We’re sales. We’re maintenance. We’re housekeeping. We do all the marketing. Char-Mac — it’s a little four-cabin resort, and it’s more family-oriented than anything else. Much like my family, most of our guests have been coming here for generations. My family, our kids are (the) fifth generation of my family to come up and stay on Little Pine.”
Though the Tischers have been Perham residents and business owners since 2020, they started out as annual summer visitors from southwest Iowa. While Andrew started visiting the area when he was very young, his family history at Little Pine Lake goes back even further than him. While they don’t know the exact year their family originally fell in love with the Perham area, there is a bit of “folklore” behind it.
As the story goes, Andrew’s maternal grandfather was in the Philippines during World War II. When he was there, one of his war buddies from close to home visited the Perham area and caught a huge fish. He took a photo, got it developed and showed all of his buddies.
“And so, the next year, they all came up,” Andrew shared. “The fishing was awesome, and my grandpa fell in love with the place. So then every year after that, we came. And one year, he brought his grandma, getting us to five (generations).”
Though his family always stayed on Little Pine Lake, they didn’t start coming to Char-Mac Resort until around 1993. Where Andrew grew up, there’s no water or lakes. Most of the trees have been torn down for corn. In Perham, however, there is water and woods and wildlife. Even with neighbors close by, you’re still able to get outside and enjoy the outdoors. As someone with a passion for fishing and hunting, a part of him always knew this was exactly where he wanted to be later in life.
“I made the proclamation when I was like 13, 14 years old,” Andrew said. “I stated right out there in front of cabin four: ‘Someday, I’m going to buy Char-Mac.’”
And so, he and Jenny did just that when the opportunity arose a few years ago. Jenny herself started visiting Char-Mac when she and Andrew got engaged almost 20 years ago. She also fell in love with it quickly, simply because Andrew’s family loved it. The vacation was a family tradition, and vacations were never something she experienced growing up. Having that connection with her new family was nice from the start.
Though owning Char-Mac was a pipe dream for a while — one that the Tischers couldn’t quite afford — it became their reality in 2020 just three years ago. This summer in 2023 will be their fourth one operating the resort. Andrew jokes that, when he was younger, he wanted to own a resort so he could get paid to go hunting and fishing every day. That hasn’t quite happened yet, and, in reality, running a resort can get quite hectic for the family.
On top of running the resort, Jenny and Andrew both work full-time jobs: Jenny in life insurance and Andrew as a manager at Hilltop in Ottertail.
“Owning a small business just means you don’t have a sick day, and you don’t have a 401k, and you don’t have PTO,” Andrew said. “You’re busy all the time. And it doesn’t matter that I’m sick. The fish buckets still have to be dumped, and the sink’s got to be fixed. The lawn’s still got to be mowed, and the boat’s still got to come in and out per whoever’s using them. There’s a lot that goes into it. The cabin still has to be cleaned, whether Jenny doesn’t feel good or not. You still have to go to work.”
Despite the hard work that it takes, that work is driven by passion. Since buying the resort, a lot of thought and care has been put into its renovations. Each year, they pick one major project for a single cabin and a small project for all four of them. They’ve given the cabins facelifts and the amenities renovations. They make sure that the buildings stay not only functional but also comfortable.
Jenny is in charge of the cleaning, taking about an hour per cabin to get them spotless between check-out and check-in. Andrew is in charge of the maintenance — mowing the lawn, fixing lifts and more. Their oldest child is busy watching the youngest.
“It is a literal family affair,” Andrew laughed.
Jenny added, “All hands on deck.”
When a business is a family affair, however, they believe that it passes along work ethic to their children. As the kids get older, they’ll start helping out around the resort. Though part of buying the resort was definitely driven by their desire to live on Little Pine, it’s also important to the Tischers to have something to pass on to their children. They hope their kids grow to love the resort one day in the same way that they did, so they can continue the family tradition of caring for Char-Mac.
Jenny and Andrew believe it’s important to maintain resorts and other businesses around lakes like Little Pine simply because a lot of Perham’s family businesses and small businesses — such as the ones on Main Street — run on summer tourism. When someone is on vacation, they’re ready to splurge. So while they may stay at Char-Mac for a fun summer on the lake, they may go into town and eat out every night, buy souvenirs and bring needed commerce to Perham.
This area of Minnesota was founded on tourism, Andrew explained, and maintaining the resorts helps to maintain the Perham tradition of family-owned small businesses. Since moving to the Perham area, the Tischers have fallen in love with this part of the culture. They always shop locally, from groceries to clothing. They hope to keep the community’s business tradition alive, and they do so in both their free time and in their business ventures. In the three years they’ve been here, it’s clear they feel at home.
“The Perham community has been really welcoming to us, and it wasn’t surprising,” Andrew said. “It’s been a great town. I mean, I’ve been in love with it since I was five years old. It’s easy to see how I was able to fall in love with it from so far away.”
Jenny continued, “I think the thing I love about Perham the most is when you think there’s always stuff to do in the summertime for tourists and everything, but there’s just so much to do all year-round. They don’t just cater to the tourists. It’s their residents too.”
Once summer swings around, the streets of Perham will be once again filled with visitors from all across the country, ready to spend money and keep this community alive. All of this is in part due to resorts like family-owned Char-Mac.
For more information on Char-Mac Resort, visit their website at www.charmacresort.com . Contact 218-346-3183 or firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions.