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Venturing North

hanging wood sign for Rockwood Lodge

In 2015, sisters Stephanie Lightner and Carol Seim were approached by their husbands, Carl Madsen and Mike Seim, to undertake the adventure of small business ownership and a move north.  Twin Cities residents, the four joined together and, with the help of an SBA loan facilitated by the Minnesota Business Finance Corporation, purchased Rockwood Lodge and Outfitters in Grand Marais, Minn.

Rockwood Lodge is a historic resort on the Gunflint Trail on the eastern half of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCAW). The four partners benefited from a SBA 504 loan to purchase the existing lodge and outfitter resort. Along with a lodge, cabins, bunkhouse, fishing, hiking, and canoeing, they also provide outfitting services for camping excursions with entry to the BWCAW.

The BWCAW is a unique area located in the northern third of the Superior National Forest in northeastern Minnesota. Over one million acres in size, it extends nearly 150 miles along the International Boundary adjacent to Canada’s Quetico Provincial Park and is bordered on the west by Voyageurs National Park. The BWCAW contains over 1,200 miles of canoe routes, 12 hiking trails and over 2,000 designated campsites.

Rockwood Lodge was built between 1926 and 1932 and is the original building, handcrafted from native pine with a large meeting room and gift shop. In addition to the lodge there are seven cabins for visitors and an outfitting building with everything a group would need to explore the boundary waters.  

When asked what the biggest challenge they’ve faced since purchasing the property has been, Stephanie Lightner reflected that, “We’re all family but it’s different when you work together.  We had to decide the roles we would all take.  Trying to figure out how to work together has been a big challenge.”

As the ownership teams enters their second summer season the respective roles remain fluid but everyone seems to have found their niche. Carol has become the customer service manager; if a cabin needs attention or the small gift shop needs products or supplies, talk to her. Mike has taken over the outfitting branch of the bushiness; he can talk canoes with you and make your BWCAW trip a success. Carl has become the face of Rockwood, talking about the Lodge with you and greeting guests and visitors. Stephanie is the logic behind the 'dream' - she's really good at saying 'no' and keeping the business focused.

With the business thriving it isn't hard for the four to focus on the future; both near and far. The former owner's lakeside home will make an excellent cabin, expanding the outfitters with new ultralight canoes and new equipment will attract new clients and restoring/renovating the cabins will keep those customers returning year after year.

Company Name: 
Lazy Dog Cabins and Canoes dba Rockwood Lodge and Outfitters
Location: 
Grand Marais, Minnesota