South Dakota resort gets new owners, stays in the family
YANKTON, S.D. (AP) — For Michael and Valeri Grave, coming to Yankton’s Lewis & Clark Resort as owners is a new life chapter, as well as a homecoming.
Jeff Wahl was there at the beginning when the Lewis & Clark Resort, located just west of the Marina Grill at the Lewis & Clark Recreation Area, was built. He ran it for the last 18 years, and recently decided to sell it — to his nephew Michael Grave.
“My previous company, we developed (the Lewis & Clark Resort) back in 1988,” Wahl told the Yankton Daily Press & Dakotan . “I’ve been here since 2001, and we kind of developed it. Now it’s 2018, and it’s time to move on to the next chapter in my life: get out of here; go live on a boat.”
Michael and Valeri Grave, and their young son Max, moved in at the resort recently after purchasing the property, which consists of hotel rooms, cabins and a lodge.
“The state owns the land and we are concessionaires,” Wahl said. “We own the buildings.”
Michael Grave, originally from Hartford, and has lived and worked in Yankton before.
“People that have been here before may remember me,” he said. “I was on the Convention and Visitors Bureau board from 2009-2012, and Leadership Yankton. Leadership Yankton was a program about getting younger professionals more involved in Yankton so they stayed, which, I guess, didn’t work short term for me, but it did work long term.”
“Michael worked here for three years,” Wahl explained. “He managed the place for three years, so it’s not anything new. He’s got intimate knowledge of the business. He knows how everything works.”
Michael Grave was the resort’s maintenance manager, helping his uncle on and off for multiple summers, he said, before becoming the resort manager. Three years ago, he left his job at the resort to pursue a master’s degree at the South Dakota School of Mines, where he met his wife.
“After I finished my MBA, I took an engineering job and also a sales engineering job in Boise, Idaho,” Michael Grave said.
During that time, the couple returned to the Lewis & Clark Resort to get married. The main clientele of the resort is primarily lake guests, then family reunions and weddings, Michael Grave said. “It was an awesome venue and was really enjoyable.”
Once Max was born, the couple began to reconsider the idea of raising a family in the city.
“We were living in Boise, and we decided we wanted to be back close to the family in a lifestyle that we didn’t have to travel for work with a little one,” Michael Grave said. “It made sense to buy the resort; to be closer to home; to be home at night, raise our kids in a nice quiet environment that’s enjoyable and acceptable to families, rather than a city.”
“It definitely is like coming home,” he added.
“I came and visited a couple of times, so this is pretty new to me,” Valeri Grave said. “I am a physician assistant and I’ll be keeping my job through the Veterans Administration (VA).
Neither the Graves nor Wahl think the transition will be difficult. Michael Grave will manage the resort and maintenance, while Valeri Grave, who has hotel experience, will take care of decor, customer service and projects developing new amenities.
“Jeff has agreed to be a resource for me,” Michael Grave said. “So, if there’s anything that comes up that is a little unknown, or if I need refreshing on how things are run or done, he’ll be that resource. It should be a very smooth transition.”
Though they do not want to make any drastic changes, the couple is considering some small tweaks, they said, like a coffee bar, a tot lot and maybe some additional rental options.
“We are excited for the new chapter,” the Graves agreed.
“Kind of like coming home,” Wahl added. “Seamless transition; here’s the keys; I am out of here — the money’s in the bank.”
Information from: Yankton Press and Dakotan, http://www.yankton.net/