Behind the Scenes with Hospitality Pros

Greg Wright
Executive Director, North House Folk School, Grand Marais,

School on Vacation?
“It’s important to keep learning. Our hands were made to do real things. There’s something different about putting a loaf of wood-fired artisan bread that you made on the table for your family or putting on a pair of snowshoes and going for a hike when you steam-bent the frames and put the laces on the shoes. Each step connects you with the joy of snowshoeing and the people and the stories of the north.”

’Til Death
“We offer some really unique classes—like coffin-making. As silly as it sounds, I believe the world would be a better place if we all had to stop our busy lives and make a box that was going to have our name on it, because that’s certainly a fascinating opportunity for reflection on what life is supposed to be about—in addition to gaining basic woodworking skills.” 

A Quick Study
“These are the crafts and survival skills of the people—back in the day, everyone knew how to do them. You’ll make a lot of mistakes, but one of the things I love about every class is that about an hour in, someone will be working at their table and they’ll be able to wax philosophical about their project. In that time, they know more about that craft than most of the world does.”


Tony Roach
Owner and Chief Fishing Guide, Roach’s Guide Service, Lake Mille Lacs,

In Need of Guidance
“With a guide, there’s a great one-on-one with customers, and the fish-catching rates are so much higher. Mille Lacs is one of the few lakes in Minnesota where you can catch really big walleye in the summer, but it’s also top-five in the country for small-mouth bass fishing.”

On Ice
“We take tours in the winter, too. When I first started my business, I didn’t think the winter portion would be as big as it’s become, but ice fishing has really exploded over the past 15 to 20 years, so tourism has been growing in the winter months.”

A Family of Fishermen
“My dad got me into walleye tournaments at a very young age, and my uncle’s nickname is Mr. Walleye. Between them, I was really raised in the fishing industry. My first job was frying fish at different sporting-goods stores.”

Mark Ludlow
Proprietor, Ludlow’s Island Resort, Lake Vermilion,

Generation to Generation
“Growing up at the resort, I didn’t like it, because I had to work all the time. I left and vowed to never return, but I came back and purchased the resort from my parents in 1971 and have been there ever since. I think of myself as being in the mental-health business—if we can provide a way for people to decompress and calm down, we’re doing our jobs.”

No Two the Same
“If you look through our cabins, you’ll find different construction techniques in most of them. People definitely have their favorites. We have guests who have been coming for 30 or 40 years, and they have their cabins that they want to be in. And if we didn’t design them all differently, they wouldn’t have that individual sense.”

All Friends Here
“We have a very active statewide resort association and a local lake-wide resort association. Some of my best friends are other resort owners—I really don’t feel like they’re my competition as much as they also want to let people relax and unwind while they’re up here.”

Scott Graden
Chef/Proprietor, The New Scenic Café, Duluth,

If It Ain’t Broke…
“We use as many local ingredients as we can, and when they’re in season. Our menu changes all the time, but some things are constant—our pistachio-crusted goat cheese salad has been on the menu for 15 years, since we opened. It’s best when the tomatoes are fresh and ripe, and they contrast with that warm goat cheese.”

What’s in a Name?
“When I bought the place, it was the Scenic Café, and the owners didn’t want to release the name—we put the word “new” in front of it, which allowed us to spark a conversation with customers. Naming it “the Pistachio Café” was part of our brainstorming—
I love pistachios so much that we put them on the table when people arrive—but I like the history attached to the name.

A Great Lake for a Reason
“Lake Superior’s pretty magnificent. I like the changing seasons, and we’ve got the best air and water quality of anywhere I’ve ever been. Realistically, you just don’t have to worry about that, which is amazing.”