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High honors for local resort owners

Fri, Nov 1st, 2013
Posted in Whalan Features

Larry and Sheryl Johnson stand in the office building/general store at Cedar Valley Resort. The Johnsons have been chosen as the Minnesota Resort and Campground Assoication’s 2013 Operators of the Year. Photo by Barb Jeffers

Larry and Sheryl Johnson, owners of Cedar Valley Resort in Whalan, Minn., have been chosen as the Minnesota Resort and Campground Association’s 2013 Operators of the Year. The couple attended the three day MRCA conference which took place October 22, 23, and 24, 2013 at the Grand View Lodge in Nisswa, Minn., not having a clue they had been chosen. Larry and Sheryl’s children, Brittany and Luke, however, were notified in advance and kept the secret from their parents so the presentation would be a complete surprise.

The title “Operators of the Year” is a very prestigious award and to make the announcement even more meaningful is the fact that operators who are considered must be nominated by a member of the association. After nominations, the Board of Directors of the MRCA decides who will be awarded the title. The Johnson’s received a plaque and a dozen roses when the presentation occurred. This award is given by their peers which should make the Johnsons and their staff feel very proud indeed.

Larry and Sheryl purchased the land for the resort from Larry’s mother in 1999. The land has been in the family since 1928 when Larry’s grandfather took ownership and then to Larry’s parents in 1953 where Larry’s father, Gene, ran a mink farm for many years. The Johnson’s opened Cedar Valley Resort in 2001 beginning with one cabin and worked hard to keep expanding to what the resort has become today which is a total of nine cabins, along with an office building/general store and many activities for guests. The two largest cabins can accommodate groups of 40.

The cabins at Cedar Valley Resort are exactly what a person is looking for when on vacation, in the area for business, planning a family reunion, girl’s getaways, or any other reason a person finds himself or herself away from home. Each cabin is comfortable and has very nice furnishings with all of the amenities of home.

A few of the many activities that are offered at Cedar Valley Resort are basketball, volleyball, horseshoes, and disc golf. The resort also rents kayaks, canoes, tubes, bikes, cross country skis and snowshoes. Many other activities are available with the Root River running along the property as well as in the town of Whalan and nearby towns such as Lanesboro, Peterson, and Rushford, Minn.

When asked what made the couple decide to start a resort, Larry commented that while growing up his family would take one week each summer to go to a resort and they always enjoyed themselves. As an adult Larry thought it would be a great way to make a living and Sheryl agreed.

The Johnson’s favorite part of owning and running the Cedar Valley Resort is the people they meet. Sheryl says the most rewarding aspect is “the family bonds we get to witness when families come together and reconnect at the resort” which is always special to Larry and Sheryl. They describe the atmosphere at the resort as fun with Larry adding, “People want to enjoy themselves,” so the mood is always light. The Johnson’s feel as though their clients also appreciate the fact that Cedar Valley Resort was built from scratch, with no client base. It is also impressive that the resort, which does not have a lake, thrives in the land of 10,000 lakes. The resort has also been successful while being located next to Lanesboro which is the Bed & Breakfast Capital of Minnesota. Sheryl says that the resort fits in well with the visitors to Lanesboro stating that Cedar Valley Resort is not a replacement, but an add-on, to what Lanesboro offers guests.

Cedar Valley Resort enjoys a wide variety of visitors somewhat depending on the time of year. Family vacations and reunions are popular in the summer while other times of the year the dynamic changes to girl’s getaways, hunters, book clubs, scrapbooking parties, bike groups, and retreats. The resort offers something for everyone with the owners and staff working diligently to make sure visitors enjoy a stay they will always remember.

Larry and Sheryl strongly emphasize, repeatedly, that a big part of their success is due to their employees. Larry states that Cedar Valley Resort has a small staff that are extremely devoted and the success of the resort is in large part because of their loyalty and dedication. Employee Florence Edwardson has worked for the Johnson family for almost 60 years performing various duties including babysitting Larry when he was young. Two additional long-time employees are Reid Mickelson and Brandon Sjarpe. “All the employees have been our core,” stated Larry.

Along with their employees Larry and Sheryl want to thank their clients for making the Cedar Valley Resort so popular and also state that the Lanesboro Chamber of Commerce and it’s director, Julie Kiehne, have been very supportive with Sheryl commenting that Julie “does an amazing job” enhancing tourism in the area.

Larry Johnson also credits his parents, Gene and Charlotte, for instilling a good work ethic in him stating they were great examples for him to follow. The family tradition seems to be carrying on with Larry and Sheryl’s children as well. The couple’s daughter, Brittany, age 23, recently graduated from Winona State University with a degree in Business Administration and works at the resort full time while son Luke, age 21, is currently pursuing a degree in Construction Engineering at Iowa State.

The future plans for the Johnsons do not include expanding the resort with any more cabins as the couple are happy with the amount of space surrounding the present cabins and do not want that to change. Instead, they will be going a different direction having purchased two lots in the town of Whalan with plans to build two new homes which will be sold into the community. The building of the new homes is the project of their son and daughter and should provide a great learning experience for each of them.

The Cedar Valley Resort is open year-round and all cabins are decorated for Christmas. The resort will be part of this year’s Christmas Inn Tour and the Johnsons are excited about being included in the popular event. This will give many in the area a chance to see what the resort has to offer.

The sign for Cedar Valley Resort states that it is a “bluff country paradise” and it is a sentiment that is no doubt shared by anyone who has visited the destination. Cedar Valley Resort is located at 905 Bench Street, Whalan, Minn. The phone number is (507) 467-9000. For more information visit the resorts website at www.cedarvalleyresort.com or email info@cedarvalleyresort.com. Find more photos of Cedar Valley Resort on the Fillmore County Journal’s facebook page at www.facebook.com/fillmorecountyjournal.

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