Plenty of careful consideration and a few factors went into Tim and Carolyn Aarsvold’s decision to sell the business they gave their lives to for nearly 23 years. But one of the biggest factors, besides both of them getting older, was the realization that the resort industry is flourishing.
“We wanted to hand it over when the conditions were good,” said Carolyn, who with Tim has owned Geneva Beach Resort since 1996.
The couple expected the sales process would take two to four years. However, the long-time owners of the second oldest resort in Minnesota said they listed it in March 2018 and the sale was finalized this past June – a span of about 15 months.
The new owners, Craig and Cami Calhoun, took ownership on June 4, but their history with the resort goes back 30 years for Cami and 15 years for Craig.
Cami’s family started staying at the resort when she was a little girl.
“We always come and stay the same week every year,” said Cami. Even though the Calhouns – Cami, a former elementary teacher, and Craig, a former high school principal – now own the resort, their week-long stay in the Geneva House was already booked and so once again, the family vacationed there.
Tim and Carolyn Aarsvold always wanted to live on a lake, and when the opportunity to buy Geneva Beach Resort came up in 1996, they thought it would be a good idea. Carolyn also said she thought it would be an excellent place to raise their two children, David and Megan.
“They learned so much about customer service and work ethic,” said Carolyn. “It really worked out great for all of us.”
The average length of owning a resort is about seven years, Carolyn said. The Aarsvolds owned their resort for nearly 23 years. Since the resort opened in 1883, only Robert and Evelyn Brown, who bought in 1943 and held it for 26 years, owned it longer.
Shortly after Tim and Carolyn came aboard, Tim said, the internet and internet marketing became a big thing.The resort had to have a website.
“All of a sudden, it was all about the internet and with that came technology demands and we had to get the internet,” said Tim.
Over the years, other change came to the resort industry. Carolyn said as parents became busier and busier with their kids’ activities, there started to be a demand for shorter stays. The week-long or longer stays became two- and three-night stays. And not always just on the weekends. Families came for just a couple of days during the week as well.
Tim said as people become busier in their lives, whether work or family obligations, it has become increasingly more difficult for them to unplug and take longer vacations.
Both Tim and Carolyn have many fond memories of owning the resort. Although both had other careers – Carolyn was a teacher in Alexandria School District 206 and they both owned and operated a motel, as well as apartment buildings – the resort was home for them.
In fact, they ended up building their home a half a block from the resort. Now that they have retired from the resort business, they sold that home to Cami and Craig. But they aren’t too far away, buying another house just down the way and are still on Lake Geneva.
Leaving the resort
When the Aarsvolds bought the resort, there were 12 cabins. Over the years, they added three cabins and bought and remodeled a neighboring cabin. In addition, they bought back an adjoining property where the old hotel used to sit and established the Sugarbush Lodge in 2013.
The lodge is a 5,600-square foot building with eight bedrooms, five bathrooms, two kitchens plus many other amenities.
“This was a huge gamble for us,” said Carolyn, with Tim adding that the gamble was keeping it as one big unit and not separating it into two. The gamble paid off, as the lodge is now used for corporate events, family reunions, church retreats, sporting groups and other functions and groups.
Leaving the resort has been emotional, said Carolyn, because it has been their way of life for more than two decades.
Without skipping a beat, Tim quipped he was going to miss cleaning the beach. Then he, along with Carolyn, Craig and Cami, all had a good chuckle.
“I am really going to miss the activities and watching families connect and have fun,” Tim said. “This is the place to enjoy a vacation. I liked getting it ready and then watching the process of relaxation when the people would arrive.”
Carolyn said she will miss the people, sharing stories and the way their guests would open up and treat them like family. She said they celebrated the births of those who became like family members to them, and share in the grief when their loved ones passed.
“I am really going to miss the connections with the people,” said Carolyn. “They came from all over the country, from everywhere. Even from overseas.”
Having Craig and Cami take over the resort made leaving easier for the Aarvolds.
“We didn’t want to sell to someone who wouldn’t keep it as a resort,” said Carolyn. “Resorts are growing and thriving and it’s a steady business. People will vacation. It’s a no-brainer to make sure it will always be there.”
Tim’s hope is for people to welcome and accept the Calhouns and to realize the new owners will get involved with the community, and respect the tourism business. The tourism industry makes a huge economic impact to the economy of the Alexandria Lakes Area, he said.
“We got the resort ready for them (Craig and Cami), but then they just took it and bam!” said Carolyn. “They are ready to carry on the rich and long legacy of the Geneva Beach Resort.”
1883: Hotel Alexandria opens and was owned by J.C. Letsen
1896: Hotel Alexandria sold to J.L. Dickinson (nephew of Letsen) and renamed Geneva Beach Hotel
1911: Geneva Beach Hotel burns down on Sept. 2
1914: Hotel rebuilt and is owned by Harry Dickinson (son of J.L.)
1917: Hotel renamed Dickinson Inn
1930 Dickinson Inn sold to A.J. DuBeau and renamed again, back to Geneva Beach Hotel
1936: Geneva Beach Hotel sold to A.L. Roberts Company
1942: Geneva Beach Hotel burns downs on June 10
1942: Hotel rebuilt by A.L. Roberts Company
1943: Geneva Beach Hotel sold to Robert and Evelyn Brown
1948: Cottage Annex, a motel, was built by the Browns and renamed Brown’s Geneva Beach
1965: Property was starting to be subdivided and cottages sold
1969: Brown’s Geneva Beach was sold to Larry and June Donatelle and renamed Geneva Beach Resort and Motel – owner’s home was added to the north side of the Cottage Annex
1971: Hotel was demolished and the land was subdivided into lakeshore lots
1976: Geneva Beach Resort was sold to Fred and Marlene Oelfke
1986: Geneva Beach Resort was sold to Ward and Carol Sonsteby
1991: Geneva Beach Resort was sold to Wally and Roxanne Tischer and renamed Geneva Beach Resort and Marina – a store and gameroom was added on
1996: Geneva Beach Resort and Marina was sold to Tim and Carolyn Aarsvold and renamed Geneva Beach Resort
2006: Store, gameroom, owner’s home remodeled to make three new lodges – owner’s home was moved
2010: Cottage 3, originally built in 1922, was purchased, renovated and named Pineview Cottage
2013: Home adjacent to resort on the east side was purchased, renovated and renamed Sugarbush Lodge – it is now an eight-bedroom vacation home located on the original site of the hotel
2019: Geneva Beach Resort sold to Craig and Cami Calhoun, longtime yearly resort visitors