BRAINERD, Minn. — Eric Peterson is smiling a lot more these days.
It's easy to smile when you're the manager at a big resort like Cragun's and your rooms are all sold out.
"I tell my team this is hospitality Christmas right now, 4th of July, here it is,” Peterson says.
“We’re looking at some record numbers for June, July and August.”
Peterson says business started to pick up in May and it has been nonstop ever since.
It’s a complete 180 from where they were last year.
Peterson says in 2020 business overall was down about 30% at Cragun’s.
He and many other resort and restaurant owners in the Brainerd Lakes Area were hoping for a good summer in 2021 to help them bounce back, and so far, so good.
“We are well over the levels that we saw before 2019,” Peterson says.
Trisha Reilley at the Brainerd Lakes Chamber of Commerce says many other resorts are also having a banner year, and other business owners are feeling it too.
“It has just been busy nonstop,” Reilley says. “Up here the population usually doubles or triples during the summer. We’re seeing a lot of activity.”
It’s a big change that is having a big impact on the local economy overall.
"The lakes are busy, the gas stations, the grocery stores, all the restaurants are doing great. So, it's good to see people up here enjoying the area,” Peterson says.
The only issue moving forward will be finding enough staff to keep up with this demand.
Peterson says many resorts are struggling to find employees this summer.
"We could probably hire another 50 to 75 employees right now,” Peterson says.
But I guess it's a good problem to have, too much business and not enough people to keep up.