Outside deck-patio, kitchen changes planned at restaurant, lodging operation

Two of the five-partner team that purchased the Cormorant
Inn, taking over in May: Greg Phaff and Chris Gunderson. The
other partners in the enterprise are Matt Johnson, Scott Terry
and Matt Tronnes.

The new owners of the Cormorant Inn describe their venture as a “work in progress.”

And the combination restaurant-lounge, lodging and laundromat operation is progressing well.

A team of five partners have invested in the operation, located less than a mile south of Cormorant village.

New to the complex is a patio deck in the back of the restaurant-lounge.

Sixteen RV camping sites have been added –with the blessing of Becker County.

All five of the partners have “day jobs,” but are not reluctant to step behind the bar or back into the kitchen to pitch in.

“The guys hop in when needed to help out the staff,” said partner Chris Gunderson, noting that the diverse operation employs more than 20 during the peak summer season.

“We’re all on the same page, and we have our tasks,” said Gunderson of the five-man team. “And if something needs to be fixed or repaired, we’re very hands-on.”

Several RV sites have already been booked for next season, noted partner Greg Phaff. “There’s a demand for RV camping in the area,” he added.

Meanwhile in the restaurant, changes are planned to increase efficiency in the kitchen. “ Menu changes are planned, including more smokehouse” specialties.

“Our ribs are popular, and we’re looking at adding more items,” said Phaff.

The partner team includes:

Matt Tronnes, a resident on Lake Ida for about 20 years. By day, he works for a wind energy company.

Scott Terry, who is full time with the Fargo Air National Guard unit.

Matt Johnson, a Twin Valley area native, with the crane department at Industrial Builders, Fargo.

Chris Gunderson, a Hawley native who has been with Team Industries for 24 years–with his office in Lake Park.

Greg Phaff, of Phaff Plumbing in Fargo, and also farms west of Fargo. How did this varied cast of charac- ters come together on a single business venture?

“One night we were ‘what if?’ talking over a couple of beers…that’s how it started,” recalled Gunderson. “We all have spent time in the lakes area,
and we knew the Inn was for sale. We pooled what we could together to make the purchase.”

The partners are optimistic about the growth in the lake country.

“It used to be just cabin owners, ‘weekend warriors,’ but we’re seeing more people living year-round on the lake,” said Phaff, adding with a laugh, “…And nobody wants to cook.”

“The population around Cormorant is becoming more year-round,” said Gunderson. “It’s much busier all year long.”

Also, the Cormorant area has a number of well-established businesses, with long time owners who were ready to retire or step aside, said Gunderson.

“It’s really an opportunity for new blood to come in and try out some new things,” said Gunderson, noting that the long-running Cormorant general store is under new ownership, as well as the Cormorant Bottle Shop.

Also, U Motors opened a new boat and marine facility just down the road near Pelican Lake (see accompanying article).

Opened in about 2003, the Cormorant Inn has 16 rooms, the Inn evolved into a popular spot–centrally located in the Pelican Lake-Cormorant Chain lakes area. The partners took over in early May.