Ask The Naniboujou Lodge and Restaurant, The Inn at Timber Cove and Kowalski’s Shoreview
Do you have a favorite weekend getaway spot or restaurant that you like to frequent, during normal times, that is truly a step above? Is there a store that you like to visit, even when you may not need anything?
Do you look at certain businesses differently and don’t mind paying more or, don’t mind going out of your way to do business with them? Are there businesses that you would invest in if it meant that they would continue to exist? There is something about these types of businesses that causes us to have an emotional attachment. Could it be that these businesses represent excellence?
Excellence is a word that isn’t often used to describe small and medium-sized businesses. That’s unfortunate, as there are small businesses that are truly exceptional, and these businesses have a loyal following of customers who are eager to do business with them again and again.
We now have time to reset, due to COVID-19, and businesses that take the steps to become truly excellent will stand out now and in the good times to come.
Below are three examples of small and medium-sized businesses that set the standard for excellence.
The Naniboujou Lodge, located in Grand Marias, Minnesota, has been in existence since 1929. It started as a gentlemen’s club and a couple of its founding members were Babe Ruth and Jack Dempsey.
I first saw the Naniboujou approximately 15 years ago while driving up the North Shore. I wasn’t familiar with it but saw the unique sign and decided to drop in and look around. I noticed the workmanship and the beauty of the restaurant and reception area and decided that someday I would stay there. That day came 10 years later.
The Naniboujou sets itself apart with its outstanding customer service, quaint and charming rooms (without televisions and phones), excellent workmanship, delicious food and beautiful setting on the shore of Lake Superior. It’s almost like going back in time. One can see the detail in nearly everything from the custom candle holders on the tables to the beautifully designed and preserved, original ceiling in the restaurant that was painted in 1929. Even the carefully maintained hardwood floors and majestic stone fireplace speak of attention to detail, a hallmark of excellence.
You know once you step inside the door that there’s something different about this place. If you’ve never been to the Naniboujou, I highly recommend it. I’ve been back at least once each year since that first stay, and hope to go back each year for many years to come.
The Inn at Timber Cove is located in Ashland, Wisconsin, just one mile from Lake Superior. It resides on 40 acres of beautiful woodland with plenty of open spaces and hiking trails. During the 1930’s, the estate was purchased by a prominent Ashland doctor, who developed the property significantly. He intended it to be a self-sustaining estate during the Great Depression and cultivated fruit trees, berries, and various crops. The current owners purchased it from another doctor in 2001 and have transformed it into a remarkable getaway.
The Inn at Timber Cove is a special place where one can unwind and escape to the simpler times of years gone by. There are three cottages including the Guest House, the Carriage House and the Summer Kitchen and each is unique with a look and feel of the 30’s and 40’s. The property has an iconic barn in which chickens are kept during the warm weather months. It was also the site of the first clay tennis courts in the state of Wisconsin. The court is now used for croquet during the summer months.
The service is excellent and the innkeepers are outstanding, as are the appointments in each of the cottages. There’s also plenty of good food nearby, but that’s a story for another time. I highly recommend the Inn at Timber Cove. Excellence is the standard and it’s a welcoming and relaxing place that guests come back to year after year.
Kowalski’s Market & Wine Shop came to Shoreview in November of 2016. Its arrival was long anticipated. Kowalski’s mixture of traditional and specialty food items and its outstanding meat and seafood department and bakery was the perfect fit for a community which had lost one of its main grocery stores.
As you enter the store and walk around, signs of excellence are everywhere. The store is clean and everything is in its place. The employees are welcoming, helpful and knowledgeable, and the baggers will carry your groceries to your car, if you’ll let them. There is an attention to detail that’s obvious and you don’t mind paying a little more because of the experience.
Safety is paramount during these times and Kowalski’s has taken safety to a different level to ensure its customers feel comfortable shopping there. As you walk in the store, you can choose to protect yourself with complimentary single-use safety gloves in addition to wipes and hand sanitizer. These aren’t the inexpensive safety gloves that can rip when you put them on your hands, but quality gloves that help you to feel protected. Employees wear masks and the registers are protected by plexiglass, yet they are still welcoming and friendly. And the shoppers adhere to social distancing guidelines. There’s a difference. It’s about excellence and Kowalski’s delivers.
The Naniboujou Lodge and Restaurant, The Inn at Timber Cove and Kowalski’s Market are examples of small and medium-sized businesses that have chosen to put the extra effort into maintaining standards of excellence. All three were stable, thriving businesses prior to COVID-19, and my hope is that they’ll continue to thrive.
I book my reservations a year in advance for a fall weekend at the Naniboujou and almost a year in advance for The Inn at Timber Cove. Both have developed a long list of satisfied, repeat customers, as has Kowalski’s. It’s great to see businesses being rewarded for excellence.
As I mentioned, this is a time that many small and medium-sized business can use to reset. Every business can improve and the competition for fewer dollars will become tougher over time. In the end, my hope is that the winners will be those that go the extra mile and pursue excellence. Customers will notice and go out of their way to support these businesses, as they have with the three examples of excellence that were featured.
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