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Boreal Community Media

Meet your Cook County Neighbor: Melissa Dressely

Sep 25, 2023 04:55AM ● By Editor
Submitted photos

By Boreal Community Media - September 23, 2023

How did you land in Cook County? What journey led you here? 

I came to Cook County in 2004. I met my husband, Gene, in Maryland where I’m from. He is from Minnesota, but he was working out east for the U.S. Forest Service. We met while I was still in college, and eventually, we moved to the Pocono Mountains in Pennsylvania. We knew we didn’t want to settle there, and he really wanted to get back to Minnesota. So, he applied to some positions in Minnesota, and this is where we landed. 

In fact, before we moved here, we moved to Saranac Lake, NY, which is where we thought our future would begin. But after a few weeks of living there, he got a call from the Gunflint Ranger District about a job. He got the job and we moved here before unpacking all of stuff! 

Next year, we will celebrate our 20th year of living in Grand Marais! Many people may also know our son Ray, who is a senior in high school. He plays football and is on the Alpine Ski Team.

You are busy with both Do North Marketing and North Shore Explorer MN. Can you tell us a little more about both and how they came to be?

My career in tourism marketing began in 2001 at the Pocono Mountains Vacation Bureau. I was fortunate enough to land here in Cook County, a major tourism destination, which provided an opportunity to remain in the industry. I worked in the marketing departments for Odyssey Resorts, and Lutsen Mountains over the course of about 12 years, but my long-term goal was to open a business and do some consulting work. 

In 2018, I was having tea with my friend and neighbor Nina Simonowicz, who published the North Shore Visitor guide (and the highly successful She mentioned that she was looking to sell the guide so she could move on to some other passion projects. Everything about publishing a visitor guide resonated with me! It completely aligned with my skills and interests! So I ended up taking it over that summer and publishing my first one in 2019 under the name North Shore Explorer. 

It is the official guide of the North Shore Scenic Drive, and is very popular because of its attractive design, user-friendly layout, and easy-to-follow information. There are about 120 advertisers from Duluth to Grand Portage, and I distribute 100,000 per year - delivering them myself up and down the shore! 

The printed guide has grown into a content-driven platform including the blog on, and a robust social media presence @NorthShoreExplorerMN on Facebook and Instagram, which reaches 1.5 million people per month.

My business, Do North Marketing, also provides strategic marketing services for clients. Like a thought partner and mini-marketing agency for your small businesses!

Some of the main services include: 

  • Email marketing (the best return on investment of any other marketing activity!)

  • Blog writing

  • Prioritizing your marketing initiates

  • Messaging - connecting with your audience by identifying your unique value proposition and point of view (by developing this you create a connection with your customers which drives sales, and loyalty, and it gives you a lot more to talk about on social media!)

  • Sales campaigns and funnels

  • Wix website maintenance and development


What is your favorite go-to spot in the County on a day off to have fun?

In the summer I love going up the Gunflint Trail for paddleboarding and swimming! Hiking along the rivers and waterfalls is another favorite (with Devil’s Kettle being the least favorite because of all the stairs!) Other than that I really enjoy walking on roads or trails with friends and our dogs. 

What are some of the exciting changes that you have seen evolve over the past few years in Cook County? 

Certainly, watching local businesses grow, evolve, find new owners, etc. is exciting. 

What is the best advice you were ever given and by whom?

“If there’s a fork in the road…take it!” This was said by one of my college professors. Although it is a little tongue-in-cheek (like, duh), the simple message is that change is inevitable. When our path leads us in a new direction, embrace the change, trust the process, and be open to learning and discovering new things even if it’s scary. We are all here to learn and grow, and in order to grow, we’ve got to take that fork in the road otherwise we’ll be standing in the same place for the rest of our life. 

What are some of the treasures of the North Shore that may be overlooked by Cook County residents?

Since we here in Cook County are usually whizzing down the shore to get to Duluth or other places, it’s easy to overlook some of the most beautiful things that are right in our backyard (especially in Lake County)! So I recommend that Cook County residents take some time to check out these places if they haven’t already: 

  • Enger Park in Duluth - not only can you go to the top of Enger Tower, but there is a Japanese garden with a peace bell that you can ring. 

  • Gitchi-Gami State Trail on the side of the Silver Creek Tunnel.

  • Iona’s Beach at the Twin Points Public Access (just west of Split Rock Lighthouse)

  • Palisade Head

  • The cliffs on the trail to Shovel Point at Tettetgouche State Park

  • Black Beach in Silver Bay

  • Caribou Falls

 Photo credit:  Laura Muus

Boreal Ship Spotter - larger view here