Despite death in family, COVID, and challenges, Star Lake resort-restaurant survived to thrive

By Louis Hoglund

At the newly remodeled bar at Bell’s Resort and Bar and Grill, Rhonda Bell, Trevor Boe and daughter Joselyn. After a series of challenges, including the COVID  pandemic and remodeling, the restaurant reopened January 6.

Overcoming challenges has been a constant over the past four years for Rhonda Bell, who is carrying on the Star Lake resort and restaurant business—against many odds. 

Not only did her business partner—and father—die within months of their 2018 purchase of the former Galaxy Resort—but the COVID pandemic soon followed. 

“I was very grateful for all the support I received from my new neighbors and friends during that difficult time,” said Bell. The restaurant has been up and running since Jan. 6, and she’s looking ahead to the summer resort business—which is already booked for much of the 2023 season.

“I have enjoyed the community and relationships built the most out of anything when it comes to running my business. Star Lake is truly a wonderful place to live or visit,” said Bell. 

The most unusual roadblock for Bell was the Labor Day Weekend 2020 arson of the Star Lake Bridge. Located just south of Bell’s, the bridge was closed for reconstruction for two seasons. Because of the location, the roped-off bridge forced many patrons all the way around sprawling Star Lake to travel to the restaurant. 

There was happy news during the 2020-22 business interruption for Bell and her boyfriend, Trevor Boe. In October of 2021, their baby Joselyn Boe was born. 

A view of the new bar, which was renovated and expanded with 20 additional stools.

“She has been a huge blessing in our lives and a great addition to our Star Lake family. She’s enjoyed meeting and socializing with our cabin-goers, bar and restaurant patrons, and all our friends here on Star Lake,” said Bell. Joselyn is now nearing her 15-month birthday. 

With the baby, the remodeling of the bar area of the restaurant was launched. The new bar has rustic pine framing, with a steel bartop. The new ceiling is tongue and groove pine, and new flooring was installed in the bar area. Plus—a pool table was added. 

Famous for its broasted chicken, the restaurant is back in business Thursday to Sunday in the off-season. Summer schedule is tentatively Tuesday to Sunday. 

A true family resort-restaurant operation, Rhonda’s mother, Chris Horvath, has been working the kitchen. Her baked desserts and goodies are becoming a trademark at Bell’s. And—she comes from a line of kitchen experts. Chris’s grandmother was a Pillsbury recipe contest winner—several times, until Pillsbury restricted past winners from entering. Chris herself was a Pillsbury winner, as well as a past Minnesota Beef Council winner.

“I developed a special cookie specifically for the resort,” said Chris, who is guarded about her secret. “It’s an oatmeal caramel cookie, but that’s all I’ll say,” she laughed. “People have asked for the recipe, but you gotta go to the resort to get them!”

Chris has also introduced a specially prepared pork tenderloin, with two homemade, secret recipe toppings. 

The widely celebrated chicken became a signature for the Bina family, longtime owners of Galaxy Resort—and  Bell’s is continuing that tradition. In addition, Bell’s new fish and shrimp tacos have become a new favorite. 

Outside, the dock systems were completely updated. Bell is proud of the pair of new pontoons that were added to the fleet. The pontoons and boats are not only available to guests at the ten-cabin Bell Resort, but to the general public to enjoy Star Lake and its famous sand bar where families of boaters gather on warm summer days. 

Her father, Roland Bell, died April 2, 2019—less than four months after they completed the transaction with former owner Ron Bina. 

“Unfortunately, God had other plans when my father passed away of a massive heart attack…leaving me to run the business myself,” said Rhonda. “We were so excited to meet all our wonderful locals and be a part of the beautiful Star Lake Community.”

She described it as a “father-daughter business adventure.” Sadly, it was not to be—and Rhonda carried on alone.

Between family, friends, and the Star Lake community, Rhonda Bell has overcome setbacks and interruptions. Her father would be proud.