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Marina to Offer Services 7 Days a Week this Winter

December 1, 2021

While Fortune Bay Resort Casino has been renting icehouses for several years now, Marina Manager Brian Hacker has grand plans to make the 2021-22 season better than ever.

Those plans include offering rentals seven days a week and having the marina building open for additional services and sales throughout the winter. 

In years past, those wanting to rent an icehouse simply drove to their rental and spent the day fishing. Now, those renting an icehouse will have the luxury of being able to use the marina building to buy hot and cold beverages, snacks, their choice of bait, lures, and even rod/reel combos.

“I added a variety of new snacks and food so we can accommodate all cravings. I am trying out a few different pizza brands to be able to cook for customers,” said Hacker from his office this past Friday morning. “We also have a microwave for doing Deli Express-style sandwiches.”

Hacker said he spent a lot of time researching sporting goods suppliers’ websites to get every essential item he could think of to be able to provide guests and those that use Fortune Bay’s entry point to head out onto Lake Vermilion for their trek. That includes a multitude of tackle, ice fishing poles, tip-ups, and the most common types of ice fishing setups; as well as basic gear such as gloves, mittens, winter hats, and ice spikes for your boots.

“Brian and his team are really taking ownership of our marina and have some great ideas,” said Director of Hospitality Rebecca Stahl. “Time will tell if this is something our guests embrace, but given how much traffic we have for winter tourism,  it could really pay off.” 

If things go as planned, Hacker wants the Fortune Bay Marina to become a mini version of the Y Store, which has been a popular stopping point for locals and tourists for decades. 

“I am hopeful that we will do well,” said Hacker, who added that the marina will continue to offer bait sales and off sale beverages. “I am also a realist and know that at the moment no one really knows about our improvements, and it can take time for people to find out about it. However, I have no doubt whatsoever by this time next year we will have bookings for all rentals set up months in advance.”

The current hours of operation are Monday – Wednesday 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Thursday – Sunday 7 a.m. – 8 p.m. However, Hacker said there will be times this winter that staff will be busy cleaning ice houses or plowing the ice road.

“We have a lot on our plate when the season starts, such as keeping the ice houses clean, warm, and the road open, as well as keeping the store stocked and clean,” said Hacker, who added that the ice houses will be receiving a face lift of sorts to make them look more uniform. 

The work Hacker and his staff have put in to put the plan in motion have been demanding. Not only did the staff have to close things down from the fall season, such as mothballing the ice cleaning shack, family picnic area, summer rentals, etc., but they also did a great deal of reorganizing the floor plan of the marina to make it more user-friendly.

“With the help of our maintenance department, we cleaned the inside top to bottom and repainted the restrooms,” said Hacker. “We started by outfitting the building with an updated look which consisted of getting rid of the clutter inside and outside and adding the slat wall inside to make more merchandisable space. I also moved all the pop/beer coolers together. Our maintenance team also installed additional lighting to brighten up the space.”

The result has been greeted with many compliments from guests, but in Hacker’s eyes, these changes are just the tip of the iceberg as he envisions more wholesale changes coming down the road. He wants to continue to grow all salles including the drive-up gas pump at the dock system, plus offer watercraft storage, sleeper ice houses, snowmobile rentals, jet ski rentals, plus an upgraded fleet of fishing boats and pontoons. The latter will receive a refresh this coming summer as he ordered new furniture and flooring for three of the pontoons. 

“I know being on the doorstep of Lake Vermilion we have a lot of opportunity for expansion and profit,” said Hacker. “It will be a no-brainer that it will be a success down here for the marina and the casino. When guests come and get great service across the board, they will talk about their experience, which leads to more guests and more business for the entire company. And that is my ultimate goal.”

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