These professionals found, and then capitalized on, their own unique place in the industry.
SUMMER 2011 MN-MEETINGS.COM – By Amanda Fretheim Gates PHOTOS BY TODD BUCHANAN
You know them. Those people who find a hole in the market and come up with a brilliant plan, follow through with that plan and develop something smart and successful. Those people who are ahead of the curve—like the early adopters of technology or those who went green before green was even a thing. Those people who make you slam your hand against your forehead and say, “Why didn’t I think of that?” Do you know those people? Well, we found some of them right here in Minnesota’s hospitality industry, doing all sorts of smart things we all wish we thought of ourselves. Read on. Be inspired.
Five years ago on Memorial Day weekend, Scott Mehlhaff and Chris Holland-Mehlhaff, husband and wife, realized a decade-long dream. They opened The Lodge on Lake Detroit, a unique property that showcased themes that are very important to them, like arts and sustainability. Eco tourism and green building practices were just revving up during this time and Scott and Chris focused on them from the ground up.
When the architectural plans for the new hotel included large, unattractive settling ponds to collect run off, Scott looked into rain gardens. Because this was a newer idea for lakeshore property, Scott’s search for an engineer with the expertise to design the project led him to Minneapolis. He also applied for and received a grant from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, who sent experts, in-kind plants and extra hands to help complete the effort. Between the two rain gardens and a lakeshore restoration project, the property now has more than 11,000 square feet of native plants, grasses, shrubs and perennials. “We have a combination of the best of both worlds,” Scott says. “We have a very nice manicured lawn for our wedding and family events, yet all the way around it by the lake and in our rain gardens, it’s kind of wild and native.”
The couple continued their sustainability efforts throughout the property. In the guest rooms, they use BeeKind body products, which come in biodegradable packaging with part of the proceeds going back to bee research. They offer an organic skin care line in the spa. When acquiring furniture and artwork, they looked for regional artists, keeping their carbon footprint low and helping out their neighbors. Other sustainable initiatives include recycling in all the guest rooms, organic wines and vodkas in the bar and low-flush toilets and florescent light bulbs throughout the property. For the couple’s efforts, their lodge received the 2010 Explore Minnesota Tourism Sustainable Tourism Award.
The couple is driving change elsewhere, too. As owners of two additional Best Western hotels, one in Detroit Lakes and one in Grand Marais, Scott and Chris (whose family has been involved with Best Western since 1972) have continue to push the hotel company to get onboard with some of these sustainable practices. And it’s worked. “It’s exciting to be involved in some of those changes, because it not only affects our hotel but others as well and it’ll have a positive impact on the environment,” Chris says.
Last year, Best Western rolled out a new description strategy for its properties: Best Western, Best Western Plus and Best Western Premier. When hearing about the Premier designation, Chris felt The Lodge on Lake Detroit fit right in—and they wouldn’t even have to change the name. So far there are fewer than 10 Premier properties in North America, with only another dozen in the works. “We chose to open the lodge as an independent hotel because we wanted to do things differently, but this allowed us to find a niche, to still maintain its individuality and our entrepreneurial spirit,” Chris says.
“Hospitality has changed,” Chris says. “With three categories, this will clearly help people choose a Best Western that’s right for their stay. There will be member reward points available and we will have a global presence on their reservation system. As a 54-unit hotel run by the two of us, now we’ll have a bigger team to help people find us and understand that we’re not going to be the least expensive property in Detroit Lakes, but there is something unique and special about us.”
About Holland Lodging
The Lodge on Lake Detroit is independently owned & operated by Holland Motel, Inc., now in its third generation of providing excellence in hospitality. Husband and wife owners Scott Mehlhaff & Chris Holland-Mehlhaff also own & operate Best Western Plus Holland House in Detroit Lakes, MN and Best Western Superior Inn & Suites in Grand Marais, MN.