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Marina Lodge gets remodeled

The front of the Marina lodge can be seen with a new sign.

FAIRMONT — The Marina Lodge, located on Lake Sisseton at 501 Lake Avenue in Fairmont, has added a second story and will re-open in time for the summer.

Bryan Unke, owner of the Lodge, said they’ve always discussed adding on.

“We recognize the high demand and desire for people wanting to be on the lake and enjoying activities on the lake. Looking at the property, we couldn’t really go in any direction but up,” Unke said.

Unke said that while they’ve always had good summers, they want to have that year-round. He said the only way they felt they could do that was by adding more indoor seating.

In December of last year, a variance request to expand the Marina Lodge was approved by the Fairmont Board of Zoning Appeals. However, they also needed approval from the Minnesota DNR since the Lodge is located on a lake.

For the first time, the Lodge closed this past winter because of Covid, but Unke said they used the time to start their addition.

“We tried to make having to be closed a positive for us,” said Lodge manager Jessica Inglett.

Construction began around the first of the year with many local companies working on the project including Cress, Boekett, Beemer, Cemstone, Doolittle, and K&W Electric. Ryan Unke has served as manager on the project.

Changes to the Lodge include an added upstairs which includes a bar station and 12 tables or about 44 seats. There will also be an outdoor patio area on the second floor which includes some standing bar space.

Alexandra Hurney, an employee of Marina Lodge, will be painting a mural of the chain of lakes and highlighting locations along the lake on a large wall upstairs. There’s also a large window overlooking Lake Sisseton.

An elevator going up to the second floor was put in to make it handicap accessible and a parking lot was put in across the street with a crosswalk.

There will be an access window coming up from the dock stairs to make ordering drinks more accessible and a set of outdoor steps leading from the dock to the second level was added as well.

While the number of outdoor seating spots remains the same, the layout has changed.

“We changed the door location for easier flow through the bar and restrooms,” Unke said.

They expanded the kitchen so that they can have more employees back there working and food runners were also added which Inglett hopes will help speed up service.

“The main goal for service was to get us set up more streamline so that we can cut out the middle man in some spots to make things run more efficiently and faster for customers,” Inglett said.

Inglett said they’ve added handhelds for the servers to try and make ordering times and ticket times more efficient.

With the expansion, several new jobs were added. Inglett said people can expect to see quite a few new people this summer, but there will be familiar faces as well. She said they’re currently taking applications for all positions.

With new employees and a new layout, some off-site training is taking place to ensure they’re as prepared as they can be, come opening time.

“We’re super excited to open and get going, but we’re hoping everyone has a little bit of patience with us,” Inglett said.

Unke said it will take them a while to figure out the most efficient way to get things going. While the upstairs will be open for at least drinks at all times, there may be times where food is not served up there.

“You can go upstairs and enjoy a few cocktails while you’re waiting for a table to open up so you can enjoy the scenery and hang out,” Inglett said.

As for the menu, Inglett said there are a couple of changes. She said they’ve had a lot of requests for a walleye sandwich so they’ve added that. Otherwise, it’s similar to what they had before.

“We feel like we’ve always had good quality food here and we took a good look at the menu. Our biggest focus was to speed things up,” Unke said.

With the addition of more indoor space, Unke said they want to further their focus on music by having live performances more often and of a greater variety. They’ll now be able to have bands perform year-round in the upstairs space.

“We’ll be posting our schedule soon, but we have at least one band every weekend and most weekends it’s Friday night, Saturday night and Sunday afternoon for brunch,” he said.

Unke said with everything they have to offer and now with a greater focus on music, they’re hoping to draw more people from Minnesota and upper Iowa.

As summer draws near, progress is moving quickly on the project. Unke said crews of workers have been there every day, including Saturdays and most Sundays.

“They’ve been working around the clock to help us get up and open. Everyone wants to see us open,” Inglett said.

Unke said they haven’t felt a lot of support from city staff throughout the process and that played into several setbacks. However, he said they’re now in the homestretch.

“I can’t wait for people to see it,” Unke said.

To view more pictures of the project and to find information on the opening timeline, check out The Marina Lodge’s Facebook page.

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