Goodbye Twin Cities. Hello Spirit Cove Lodge. A second career story!
by Rick Schara, Live Wide Open Coordinator
What’s your Live Wide Open story?
We often say that around the region as we strive to engage people who help us shape the cool narrative about west central Minnesota.
So when I talked to Craig Hamilton, I knew I found a great Live Wide Open story.
The headline would read something like this: Craig and Janet Hamilton left their jobs in the Twin Cities to become business owners in Douglas County.
But one can’t tell their story without talking about the Hamilton’s dream: owning a bed and breakfast (B&B) in greater Minnesota!
Like a lot of entrepreneurs, the Hamiltons did a lot of research….and a lot of real searching.
Yearning for that perfect property, Craig and Janet took their time. They figured they looked at more than two dozen properties. And while they had a choice of taking over a number of B&B businesses, they found intrigue about turning a residence into their B&B business and by adding a guest room addition with all of the amenities and features for a “simply exquisite” facility.
And there was the real estate motto of location, location, location. Two hours from the Twin Cities, 90 minutes from Fargo in the heart of lake county in west central Minnesota, drawing from Nebraska, South and North Dakota, and Iowa. Truly a prime location to explore!
So when they found a property near Garfield, just seven miles northwest of Alexandria, it checked all the boxes: near a bike trail, close to a tourism center, and great local support from the Alexandria business community, including the local SCORE chapter, and Alexandria Lakes Area Chamber of Commerce .
It could be said here, too, that they found a key regional partner: “We could not have pulled this off without West Central Initiative (WCI),” Craig said. With WCI’s help, the financial assistance numbers worked.
But there’s a twist here. The first time they viewed and considered buying the Garfield property in the early spring of 2010, things didn’t work out. So while the Hamiltons may have ended up elsewhere, they weren’t in a hurry to buy just any property. They continued to scour the real estate market in the Alexandria lakes area and across the state.
It was about five months later, nearly a year later, that their patience paid off when fate offered a second chance at that perfect property. The purchase agreement was signed July 4th, 2010. In a way, it was their Independence Day and their dream was about to become reality! Spirit Cove Lodge B&B was established.
Fortunately, even in the poor real estate market at the time, their house sold in Maple Grove rather quickly. Time to trade the rush hour in for a rush minute!
That was in 2010, and folks may remember that winter the one with a LOT of snow! Craig remembers the snow and thinking “what did we get ourselves into?” But that was only a temporary inconvenience since snow melts.
“We love this place,” Craig said. “We have 23 acres of prairie woodlands to explore and are only a quarter mile from the Central Lakes Trail. We have snowshoeing for guests and are on a natural environment lake.”
They cater to adults and couples, with a “girl’s weekend” thrown in the mix. The Lodge hosts up to eight adults, two in each of the four rooms. Their most enjoyed amenity is peace and quiet while relaxing on the rocking chairs on the spacious front porch.
Janet is the baker with a special knack for unbelievable cookies, muffins and breakfast breads in addition to tending the gardens and the incredible landscaping. Craig is the cook handling the breakfast entrees. They are a team so inn-keeping, grounds-keeping and all that goes into the business is shared.
Turning a small house private home into a stunning, simply exquisite bed & breakfast was no small feat. The original bones of the house featured a northern lodge look so blending that into the new construction took architects and skilled carpentry. And lots of attention to details.
That was important because first-time visitors get that “wow” factor. And now entering their seventh season, Craig and Janet have an established business.
But is there a second retirement on the horizon? Looking over their little slice of heaven, Craig pauses.
“You never know,” he smiles.