Late spring becoming hardship [UPDATED]Published 4:11am Monday, April 22, 2013 Updated 6:12am Monday, April 22, 2013
Sit and wait — that’s about all you can do in weather like this. But for businesses around the lakes area who rely on sunshine and open water, that could mean the loss of a lot of business heading into May.
“We’re all waiting,” said Kathy Polejewski, manager of the newly remodeled Corner Store on the west side of Otter Tail Lake. “People aren’t even coming out to check on their cabins. Some people can’t get to them.”
Opened in January, Polejewski said she wasn’t expecting the new store to get a lot of business in its first few months, but a slow spring has turned sales and stocking preparations upside-down.
“This is the time we were anticipating stocking bait for the opener, but now I don’t know what we’re going to do. Drill holes for people?” Polejewski said.
Nearby restaurants Guzzlers and Zorbaz will open on May 1, and Polejewski said she hopes that brings a boost. But until then, the only thing this weather is helping is the chatter from local customers.
“It gives us things to talk about. It’s been our topic,” Polejewski said. “We’re waiting to bring the fun stuff out. We’re not bringing in sunscreen anytime soon, that’s for sure.”
At this time last year, the docks at Vacationland Resort on Otter Tail Lake sat above water. This year, those docks are on land with snow piled up where that water should be.
“Usually the lake is open on the weekend before fishing opener. This year, I have no idea,” owner Trevor Johnson said. “Right now, we can’t do anything. No yard work, nothing. There are three cabins I can’t get in to.”
The trouble for most resort owners who rely on the fishing opener, this year on May 11, to kick start their business is that cold weather has kept them from preparing for the busy start. For Johnson, that has been a near impossibility. Anglers, however, are coming, no matter what.
“I don’t know if business will be affected. People who are coming for opener will anyway, even if they have to fish some of the smaller lakes,” Johnson said. “There will just be some things that aren’t done by that time.”
Many of those coming to the lake this spring will also be looking to play golf. John Young, golf director at Balmoral golf course, said this year some members are delaying their return to the area by a week or two.
Despite having less time to prepare the course, Young is sure they will be ready, though it might take some time for it to return to its usual form.
“It takes a couple weeks for the grass to get growing and for to get the irrigation on,” Young said. “Usually we like to have the course green by May 1. This year we’re hoping for around Memorial Day.”
For Young, strange weather is part of doing business. While years like this are rare, the chances of a long winter have kept them prepared.
“This year will be the latest the course has ever opened in 50 plus years and last year it was the earliest,” Young said with a laugh. “It’s part of living in Minnesota. It just so happens we’ve gotten both extremes in two years.”
Pebble Lake Golf Couse professional Ryan Tungseth said while the delayed opening has certainly hurt — about 1,800 rounds were played between March 18 through April 15 — about 1,600 of those rounds were played by members. During the summer months, only about 50 percent of the rounds are member rounds.
“The fact that members have lost rounds certainly hurts,” Tungseth said. “But we’re still dependent on having a nice June and July without rain. Those are the dealbreakers.”
Tungseth also said last year’s opening was an exception, and that the course opening will only likely be a couple weeks behind the average opening date of April 16.
Still, Tungseth said, “if it stretches into May, then you start worrying about membership.”