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Boreal Community Media

Cascade Lodge owners purchase Lutsen-based Cliff Dweller, Goettl Enterprise properties

Nov 28, 2022 11:45AM ● By Content Editor
Photos provided

By Rae Wojcik Poynter - Boreal Community Media - November 28, 2022

Update: November 28, 7:30pm. Correction: the original title of this article stated that the Country Plumbing and Heating business had been purchased, which was incorrect. The business is still owned by Tim Goettl.

 It’s been a big year for Thom and Jelena McAleer, the owners of Cascade Lodge. From starting a new commercial laundry business to purchasing two new properties, 2022 has been both busy and exciting for the couple and their team. With several new endeavors underfoot, Boreal met with Thom and Jelena to learn more about their story, including their path to Cook County and their plans to continue investing in the community they call home.

Both Thom and Jelena McAleer had years of hospitality experience before purchasing Cascade Lodge in 2017. Prior to moving to Minnesota, they lived and worked in Alaska, where Thom was the Vice President of Pursuit Collection, managing multiple properties and over 1400 seasonal employees across Alaska. Jelena, meanwhile, was the Director of Food and Beverage for Old Harbor Native Corporation and ran her own restaurant consulting business. Although they loved the adventure and beauty of Alaska, it was very far from family. Thom grew up in Iowa, and with Jelena’s family in Croatia, they began to contemplate moving to the Midwest so they and their two children could be closer to family. 

But they knew they didn’t want to live just anywhere in the region–the outdoors were still important to them, as was the ability to utilize their years of hospitality expertise. When Cascade Lodge went up for sale, Thom and Jelena–along with their toddler, kindergartener, and a puppy–drove down in their RV and closed on the lodge in June 2017. The rest, they say, is history.

 Photo: Thom and Jelena McAleer

“This location, being surrounded by Cascade River State Park which is further surrounded by the Superior National Forest, was of special interest to us,” Thom McAleer said. 

Over the last several years, Thom and Jelena have not only settled into their roles at Cascade Lodge, but have taken on other new opportunities as well. Just this year they co-founded North Shore Laundry, a commercial laundry business serving all of Cook County and parts of Lake County. 

“That business fulfills the need of small and large accommodation businesses such as hotels and lodges as well as some individual rental properties that we work with,” Jelena said. “It’s a great little business that was much-needed in the community and provides stable, year-round jobs. We’re very pleased with that project.”

At the heart of all the McAleers’ endeavors is a solid team of 36 staff. But as many local business owners know, finding, developing, and retaining talent is a challenging task. While this is true in a general sense, it is especially true in Cook County where workforce housing is hard to come by. After purchasing Cascade Lodge, Thom said it became apparent that they needed to take steps to intentionally develop a stronger team, including finding solutions for employee housing. Although they can now house most of their staff on the Cascade Lodge property, the need for different kinds of employee housing is one of the reasons that Thom and Jelena decided to purchase the County Plumbing and Paradise Park property in Lutsen, a sale that was finalized earlier this year.

Tim Goettl is the owner of County Plumbing & Heating and the previous owner of Goettl Enterprises, the company he and his brother Peter Goettl formed to hold their properties in Lutsen. Tim and Peter Goettl had bought the County Plumbing & Heating business from their parents in 2000; in 2004 they purchased the property on Highway 61, both as an investment and to have a place for their County Plumbing & Heating shop. Tim and Peter then went on to build the County Plumbing & Heating building in 2005 and the Timber Wolf Realty and Lutsen Liquor Store building in 2010. The pair also did significant work on the Paradise Park trailer court property, including putting in new water and sewer systems. Later, when Peter decided to retire, Tim bought out his portion of County Plumbing & Heating, though they continued to co-own Goettl Enterprises.

“My wife Tanya and I moved into one of the apartments in the County Plumbing building and took over the management side of Goettl Enterprises,” Tim said. “It’s been a great little business in a small community where you get to meet everyone and know everyone.”

About a year and a half ago, Tim and Tanya started to talk about selling the property. With Tim getting closer to retirement, it was time to start focusing on the next stage of their lives and find someone else who wanted to buy Goettl Enterprises. 

“We’ve known Thom and Jelena for quite a few years, and have worked on their properties,” Tim Goettl said. “The timing and opportunity was right for both of us. I think they’ll do a good job with everything down here.”

Thom and Jelena had a relationship with Paradise Park already, having purchased a modular home in the park last year. The opportunity to have more options for housing was a big plus: Paradise Park currently has 14 mobile home spots and 9 apartments, with room to grow if needed. As the owners, Thom and Jelena will have right of first refusal if spaces become available. 

“If we have employees that are ready to move to the next bigger thing or start a family, they can move into a two-bedroom apartment or something outside of employee housing. We don’t have a good solution for family housing here at Cascade or the other acquisitions that we’ve made over the years, but acquiring Paradise Park changes that significantly,” Thom said. 

Although this will offer more flexibility, Jelena said they don’t foresee needing all of the units for employees and still plan to take applications from the general public. And as for County Plumbing & Heating, Tim Goettl said the business isn’t stopping and he and Tanya will continue living on the property and renting from the McAleers. 

“We really enjoy the Goettls and we’re very happy that they’re the tenants down there, both in the commercial business and as residents,” Thom said. 

As 2022 continued, Thom and Jelena found themselves facing another opportunity, this time to purchase the Cliff Dweller property. Although the owners, Todd and Michele Katzenberger, had mentioned the idea to the McAleers several years ago, Thom and Jelena said they weren’t in a position back then to take on another property. Now, however, this was something they could do. They closed on the property in October, rounding out an incredible year. Both Thom and Jelena credit their ability to take on these new opportunities to their strong team of managers and staff.

“As we look to the future, there may be other opportunities out there,” Thom said. “Cook County is our home, and we want to continue to build and grow here. But you can’t do it alone, it’s dependent on the people that will come live and work in Cook County. It’s super important to focus on the people that we have working for us and to grow a strong team.”

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