Residents of Grand Marais are saying goodbye to the summer heat as temperatures drop near Lake Superior this week. Tourists are still lining the streets and waiting in line for a chance to purchase anything to show they have visited the coolest town in the nation.
A short drive “over the hill” from Grand Marais presents a very different scenario consisting of warm weather, recreational lakes, and a vast national forest with much to offer anyone interested in the outdoors. Cook County is a diverse destination for travelers, offering a wide array of activities for nearly any interest, which creates a high demand for tourist-related industries.
Restaurants, shops, and lodges take a beating all season long and the faces of the employees at these establishments show how hard it can be to survive a summer of hard work. Many of the college kids are back to school this week, leaving behind jobs that are usually absorbed by the remaining crew to endure. The tourist season is longer and stronger than ever before, and the number of employees to accommodate these tourists has drastically declined.
Lack of staffing has been the most common thread shared by local businesses and is the hardest obstacle to running a successful business in Cook County. Our business plan for Skyport Lodge included some “unknown” factors that we could not answer.
Would tourists venture away from downtown Grand Marais and visit us on Devil Track Lake? Would lunches be busy enough to justify being open? These are questions that would soon be answered by experience, but I never would have thought our biggest obstacle would be staffing the restaurant, but it is.
Hats off to all who work in the service industry. The coolest town in the nation would not be very cool without you!