Minnesota resorts are a glorious part of the state’s history. They were some of the first residents on Minnesota’s 10,000 lakes and many were started in the 20’s and 30’s because vacationing fishermen were looking to enjoy the beautiful lakes full of big fish.
Because they were some of the first residents and needed to appeal to the first visitors to the lakes area, they were also located on some of the best lakeshore.
Their beaches were cool and breezy and offered the perfect escape. Clamshell Beach was founded in 1938 by Henry Ecklund, a single man who quickly found out that taking care of all the details associated with guests and cabins were more than one person could take care of.
So in 1939, he sold the resort to Carl and Lillian Olson who quickly resold their four framed cabins to George and Agnes Johnson in 1941. George was a mason who was working in Columbia Heights, but his family’s homestead was on the Whitefish Chain and when his dad told him about an opportunity to buy Clamshell Beach and to return to his home and his love of fishing, they quickly jumped at the opportunity. George and Agnes are featured in the photo to the right – his love of fishing is clearly evident.
George quickly put his masonary talents to work at Clamshell Beach – its cottages with stucco siding stood the test of time and the grand rock wall at the lakeshore is a testament to his craftmanship. The resort also featured a cement tennis court long before tennis became popular!
Resorting must have been in their family blood because his brother Carl later bought a resort – Pine Point Resort – which was close to the family homestead. Meanwhile,their other brother Ted continued to run the family farm, but everyone in all the families pitched in and helped whenever a need arose in one of the family businesses – kids and grandkids too!
In the winter all the families harvested ice from the lake and stored it in the “ice shed” all summer. The kids who visited the resort loved the experience of climbing on the ice that would later be delivered to the cabins for their refrigerators. The kids also loved the chickens at the resort – George would feed the resort garbage to the chickens and the chickens were so efficient that only one trip to the dump was required at the end of the summer!
George and Agnes’s son Rollie was a nature lover from an early age and quickly became a popular fishing guide, he is featured in some of the photos you see here. When Rollie went off to war in 1944, he sent his service money home for his mom and dad tosave. Intead of saving, they invested the money in the resort and when Rollie returned home, they toldhim his “investment” now made him part owner of the resort! His “investment” was clearly evident in all the new improvements and a fourteen unit seasonal mobile home park was also added to the resort.
Rollie left the resort, but returned with his wife Adeline and new baby girl Lynn. They had another daughter Corrine, and continued to run the resort with George and Agnes until they had to sell the resort because of George and Agnes’ ill health. Rollie and Adeline decided that since all they had was girls, there wasn’t simply wasn’t enough help to run a resort.
So, in 1964, they sold the resort to Harry and Ruth Smith. This couple had an adult daughter, but figured that running a resort would be easy because they had experience running Dairy Queens and A & W Drive-Ins. Well after two years, they decided that running a resort was not as easy as they imagined so they sold the resort to Bob and Fran Lorenzen.
Bob and a friend at work had strategized for years about how they were going to leave their jobs at an industrial chemical company and buy resorts in northern Minnesota. After helping a friend remodel a cabin on Leech Lake one year, the realtor showed them Clamshell Beach and they fell in love with the resort. The realtor didn’t tell them that all the pipes were frozen solid however and Bob quickly became “baptized” into the resort business when they moved in that spring.
Bob and Fran had an adult son and quickly realized they were going to need help running the resort. By this time, the seasonal residents in the mobile home park had become real experts about all the intricacies around the resort. These residents all pitched in and they helped do the grass mowing, trimming trees and various repairs that needed attention. Meanwhile, Bob added water skiing at the resort – after all he had the perfect boat for pulling skiers complete with a huge 25 horsepower motor!
Bob remembers pulling a blind man on water skiis who loved it so much he came back the next year. When Bob refused to pull him on the crowded lake on the Fourth of July, he couldn’t understand why and never came back. Bob pulled skiers for many years and word must have gotten around – one day he asked a skier he didn’t recognize where he was from – “Gull Lake” the skier replied.
Bob and Fran ran the resort until 1977 when they sold the resort to Dick and Marty Coombs both of whom were teachers in the Minneapolis school system. They had three kids, but by this time the seasonal mobile home residents were easily taking care of the maintenance and some even helped clean cabins on Saturdays. They continued to offer water skiing until they could no longer get insurance for the activity, but they were both sports minded and since they both loved tennis, they added a great tennis court amongst the towering aspens and it still hosts many great games today.
They took loving care of the resort and it is rumored that Dick loved the painting part the best – yellow was his favorite color – yellow trim, yellow docks, yellow screen doors. They also added a new fish cleaning house, a new game room and remodeled the existing game room (which used to be George and Agnes Johnson’s original house) into a cabin. Marty got a teaching position in Pequot Lakes, but Dick’s love of coaching lead him to coach professional football in Europe. When their kids graduated from school, they figured it was time to “relax” and they sold the resort in 1993 to Jim and Mary Stockard.
Jim was a retired engineer from Control Data and he and Mary thought running a resort would be fun but weren’t exactly sure what was involved. Therefore they “practiced” being resorter at nearby Lovelands Resort before buying the resort from the Coombs. While they loved their “practice” experience, they quickly realized that owning a resort meant *full-time* work – which wasn’t their idea of retirement.
So, in 1997 they sold the resort to David and Lisa Moe – and their kids Andrew and Grant (who were three and one years old respectfully) when they bought the resort. They added another “partner” when son William was born in 1999). When they bought the resort there were twenty two cabins – eleven 1950/60s vintage mobile homes, ten cabins and an owner’s home. The ages of the cabins were 34-59 years old. Six of those ten cabins were located inside the Shoreland Impact Zone and their average size was just 608 square feet.
David grew up in the resort business – his parents owned a resort from 1973 to 1997 – and he witnessed the number of resorts that went out of business – the result of not adapting to customer needs and industry trends. Therefore, they recognized the need to make changes. Today, all the mobile homes have been removed and the resort consists of 17 cabins, 8 units have been added since 2004 and the resort actually has less bedrooms on the property than when they bought the resort.
A new lodge with a snack bar and game room was added in 2004, two new swimming pools with a spa room was added in 2008. Their new reunion cottages have been especially popular as families make their memories as the lake. In 2004, the resort also started specializing in Scrapbook Retreats and have since moved into other specialized retreats for women in the fall, winter and spring seasons. They have added the equipment and furnishings to host the perfect retreat and offer catering and massage for the ultimate retreat.
In 2008, the resort was approved by the Minnesota Commerce Department to sell its resort cottages on a Fractional Basis. This resort model is used throughout the United States in exclusive areas to provide a common sense approach to buying a luxury asset – without the hassles of maintenance – while also assuring that people will continue to have access to the public resources.
We are proud to say that the stories of Clamshell Beach are still growing and we invite you to check back to our Facebook Fan Page as we invite our guests to share their photos and stories. We would like to extend a special thank you to Lynn (Johnson) Sharenbroich and Bob and Fran Lorenzen who shared their stories for this page. We would also like to thank Russ Edlund for sharing his collection of Clamshell Beach postcards which he has collected while his family has enjoyed the resort for the past 55 years.
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