From its very foundations, family has been central to Angle Outpost resort. Through four sets of owners, 17 children have been (or are being) raised there, beginning with Harold and Irene Peterson’s five.
Peterson’s Camp was formed as a hunting and fishing outpost in 1957. That was in the pre-electricity days of the Northwest Angle, before there was much for indoor plumbing or even a road to get there. Raising a family and running a resort in those hardworking times took fortitude. “Money was pretty scarce and I ‘worked out’ eight hours a day,” Harold said of the early times, his faded yet still musical Norwegian accent catching on the hard consonants. “I did what I could to build up the place before and after work, but to earn money I worked in the woods or at carpentry jobs.”
There were only six families living on the mainland at the time, and according to Harold, resort kids certainly grew up with a good work ethic. When the dirt road came in, it was bittersweet for Harold. “I was against it in the beginning,” he said, “but I’m not anymore.”
It marked a new chapter for the remote area, “an influx of people” according to Harold.
Twenty-one years after Peterson’s Camp opened its doors, Paul and Diane Edman drove up the rough road to Angle Outpost to look around. They were hoping to find a small piece of land or a summer cabin for sale. Resort ownership wasn’t something they had originally considered but the prospect of raising their three young children there and sending them to the one-room school house was attractive. It took two years to get a contract and their affairs in order, but finally in 1980, the resort changed hands from the Peterson’s to the Edman’s.
After two decades of hard work, the death of his 20-year old son in a logging accident, and the declining health of his beloved Irene, Harold, at 57 years old, was ready to “get out” of The Angle, he said. “But Irene wasn’t having it. She was born there and she wasn’t about to leave.”
So the Petersons kept a strip of land, built a home and watched the Edman’s change their hunting and fishing camp into the thriving, modern resort it remains today.
Diane and Paul renamed it Angle Outpost and tripled its size, going from four to twelve cabins and adding the big lodge building that would later house the Fandrich’s and the Goulet’s.
The Edman children became part of the workforce as soon as they were able, helping clean bathrooms and make beds on the busy days, serving the guests in the lodge, and most memorably, setting up their own duck plucking and fish filleting businesses. Diane said her sons served as guides from the age of 14 and that they were paid the regular guide fee. Guests not only didn’t complain but had a great time with them.
“I thought it was an excellent place and way to raise children,” Diane (now Haggerson) said, “They learned a good work ethic. They learned how to ‘do things.’ They learned responsibility at a very young age.”
Diane also has fond memories of the one-room school experience and the small community built around the school. She kept busy at sporting shows and serving as the president of the chamber of Commerce for 8 years, as well as all of the marketing and resort responsibilities involved in keeping 12 cabins full. “We had to make a living at it and it took keeping those cabins full to do it,” Diane said.
But after 18 years, it was time for change. “I never regretted doing the resort business and we all have very fond memories,” she recounted. “I liked the challenge, but there comes a time when you’re doing too much. I got burned out and needed a change.”
Next came Dave and Jessica Fandrich of Wisconsin and their young daughter. Enthralled with the untapped muskie fishing on Lake of the Woods, Dave had been pursuing a resort purchase on the Canadian side of the lake, not knowing that the NW Angle even existed. Through happenstance and a birds’ eye view from a small touring plane, they came across The Angle. Journeying there later, the family stayed at Angle Outpost and in conversation with the Edman’s said, “If you ever want to sell…” A year or so later, Dave got the call.
So, the resort changed hands again in 1998. Paul Edman kept a slice of land, just as his predecessor had, and the Fandrich’s moved in and further modernized Angle Outpost with televisions and wifi, as well as a love for the illusive muskellunge.
For Dave, the whole experience was a grand adventure, one he looks back on with laughter and fondness. “We learned a lot about what to do and what not to do in those first few years,” he chuckled, telling story after story of the learning curve that resort ownership and living at The Angle provided. “Ultimately our guests became our family,” he said, mirroring many of the comments from the proprietors who had come before him.
The remote lifestyle, beautiful wildlife, peaceful solitude and again, a unique and character-building upbringing for their small family was the draw of Angle Outpost. In 2011, when it was time for the Fandrich’s next chapter in life, a local family would step up to take over.
Through Lisa (Carlson), the Goulet’s family roots go back for generations at The Angle, and in fact, with Irene Peterson being her great aunt, the resort has journeyed full circle back into the hands of family.
It was that foundation of family and their abiding faith that helped Jason and Lisa Goulet and family hit the ground running. It was only a matter of weeks once conversations began before they took possession and moved in. The youngest of their 8 children was only 2 months old. Thus began “one of the hardest times of my whole life,” Lisa said. “I remember trying to answer phone calls in which the caller knew more about my business than I did. It was so humbling. I had to learn how to do laundry for a family of 10 plus all the resort laundry. I remember googling ‘How to fold a fitted sheet.’ I had to re-learn how to operate a cash register, how to make a bed in the military style, how to take a reservation, book a fishing guide, process credit cards, build a website, do basic Quickbooks, deep-clean a cabin, and on and on.
“But hardest of all was not being able to be the same kind of mom I had been, now that I was juggling two jobs that were both all day, every day. I felt completely inadequate,” she said.
Jason had previously been running Red Fox Ice Fishing through Angle Outpost, so he had a general sense of the resort’s business. Still, he said, “The workload was steady, 15-16 hours, 7 days a week for 4 months straight.”
In the years since, routines have taken shape and each member of the family has settled into their given responsibilities and thrived.
“Everybody works,” Lisa said. “In the summer, our little girls, Adley (8) and Emma (6) clean up the kitchen and do dishes after breakfast so the rest of the family can get started on their own work…Jack (13) and Jason are usually the first to start the work day as they meet the guides and guests down at the marina to supply them with fuel, bait, tackle, and a wave as they head out on the lake. Madison (20) heads off to start laundry, Kelby (17) and Olivia (15) load their crates onto golf carts and head out to start cleaning cabins. Logan (12) and Jo-jo (10) gather bundles of sheets from the laundry room and head down to strip and re-make beds. My tasks vary throughout the day. I might do a couple check-outs in the morning, followed by getting something started in the slow cooker for supper. I answer emails and phone calls, make sure the younger kids get their work done and mow about 12 acres of lawn.
“It’s so different from our first summer!” she added.
Overall, they’ve updated windows, roofs, drainage, parking, landscaping, painting, signage, added screen porches, brought in new grills, furniture, televisions, linens, mattresses, pillows, lighting, updated the lodge flooring, built a new business website and completely remodeled a couple of the cabins.
Red Fox Ice Fishing has added 6 track machines, a grooming machine, 13 houses and built a shop, as well as taken on employees and added Canadian excursions to their list of offerings.
The updates, the hard work, and the family involvement have paid off. “We’ve increased business about 40% overall,” Jason said.
Fishing and the guests it brings to their door remain their economic mainstay, but if running a family-based business has taught them anything, it’s that family comes first. “We’re busy,” Jason said, “but we like spending any extra time we have with our family. We try to get away from the resort for a couple hours in the afternoon on really hot days, throw a picnic in the boat and head to an island beach.”
As a couple, Jason and Lisa have found that being business partners challenges them in the best of ways. “We’ve been strengthened by learning to work together,” Jason said. “It’s drawn us closer because we rely on each other so much more now. We’re partners in work, not just as husband and wife.”
“The things that challenged our marriage relationship in the beginning are the things that have strengthened it,” Lisa added. “We have learned a lot about our individual working and learning styles and the art of dividing and conquering based on our strengths. He’s better at numbers. I’m better with words. He’s better at repairing and building. I’m better at aesthetics. He’s better at business. I’m better at homemaking. He’s an entrepreneur. I keep him focused on one venture at a time.”
Through the busy lifestyle, the built-in real-world education it gives their kids, and their faith and focus on family, the Goulet’s are teaching everyone around them what it is to lead a happy and giving life built on integrity and hard work.
The resort welcomes hundreds, if not thousands, of guests each year and, no doubt, tens of thousands over the decades. And it’s all been because of the willingness of the few to work hard and serve. “I’ve learned that if you have to work and can’t be on vacation, it’s the next-best-thing to work for those who are on vacation,” Lisa said, smiling.
The Goulet’s are certainly doing something right, and under their watch Angle Outpost has become a destination to pay attention to. In honor of its 60th anniversary, the resort is offering a free winter fishing package in the 2017-18 season to military and police personnel (past and current) with every purchased winter fishing package.
Jason serves as a Lake of the Woods Deputy Sheriff for The Angle, so the celebration of giving back to the community is fitting.
That’s what it’s been all along for this outpost in the north woods, over the many years and handful of hardworking owners. Today, Lisa says Jason is the heart of the resort and Jason says Lisa is the heart of the family. And, for six long decades, family has been the lifeblood pumping through the heart of Angle Outpost.
“Many of our guests become friends and we look forward to seeing them,” Jason said. “Kinda like family coming home.”
Indeed. Home to Angle Outpost.
Congratulations on 60 years!
(Published in the October 31st issue of the Warroad Pioneer. All photos courtesy of the Goulet family.)