Emmaville Store, circa 1969

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

It's time.

Actually it's past time.I was going to write this post back in April and then in May. Unfortunately, it has taken 5 months to get to this point. But today it will be official: Emmaville will have new owners. Mel and I have decided its time for us to move on.  We accomplished what we set out to do almost 5 years ago: get Emmaville up and running again, reestablish its reputation as a quirky, fun and essential stop for people visiting the North Country, and eventually sell the business to recoup our investment.

From an investment standpoint, we’ll come out ok, not great but ok.  On paper, we’re not recouping all the money we have put in to this place. But we have made a living here for the better part of 5 years. Factoring that in (while not considering all the hours we put in), this adventure has been a modest financial success.

But the money is not what is important. Owning Emmaville has been one of the most rewarding experiences of our lives, almost as special to us as raising three wonderful kids. We have met so many interesting people and have had many memorable experiences in the past 5 years.  We will always cherish our time in the Biggest Little Town.

Owning Emmaville has certainly had its challenges. There were days we wondered what the hell we were doing working so hard for so little.  Mel and I struggled with communicating, sharing the workload and making time for each other and our selves.  We still don’t have the perfect marriage, but what we have is much stronger than before Emmaville.

For me, owning Emmaville has been a healing experience.  After spending 15 years in a very stressful, fast-paced work environment, dealing with difficult customers and experiencing first hand the deterioration of business travel, I did not like who I had become.  I was cynical about the business world and people in general. Work was no longer about making a difference but all about making a buck.  As the owner and CEO of the company I could not have friends at work.  Being on the road all the time, it was very difficult to make friends around home.

Worst of all, when I came home I shut down and shut Mel out. There were times when I’m sure she was glad to see me head back to the airport.  Looking back, I’m amazed she hung in there. Good thing she is stubborn.

Working behind the counter at Emmaville forced me to open up and become a sociable human being again. I was amazed how quickly the experience of greeting and getting to know our customers felt natural. I felt like the old me, someone who learned from his family how to make people feel at home.

I also became comfortable with sharing my writing with others.  The feedback I have gotten on this blog has been a wonderful confidence builder.  I hope you will follow me to my new blog, “This is Home” at www.5thcrow.com.

We are delighted that we can now count so many of you as friends, and we hope those friendships will continue far beyond Emmaville. We thank you all for letting us be a part of your lives.  God Bless.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Miracle in Green

NOTE: This and other new posts can be viewed at Mike's new blog.

Winter here in northern Minnesota can be almost devoid of color, like the face of a dead man. The ground and the water are covered in a white pall. The hardwood trees, their nakedness showing in greys and blacks, stand shivering like mourners around a cold grave.  Even the greens worn by the conifers are muted, dulled by the feeble light from an iron grey sky.  The colors of winter here speak of death. How can this cold stillness be broken? How is it possible that life emerges again?

But emerge it does in springtime.  We celebrate this even before the first green shows. As the snow and ice recede, we look for signs of life, reveling in the breaking of tiny buds in the trees. We walk on the earth, noting when the frost has given way and we can feel the earth’s soft warmth returning beneath our feet. Although we still only see greys and browns, we know we will see the colors of life again soon.

The signs are subtle.  A faint hint of green appears in the trees and in the grass. We note the sun staying just a bit longer everyday.  We begin to notice movement again in the air and on the land as great flocks arrow north and animals cautiously emerge on the road sides, blinking at the newly bright sun.  The trees begin to model their spring apparel, each with a slightly different interpretation of the color green.

And before we know it, we are surrounded by lush foliage as the trees and shrubs, grasses and forbs, sedges and rushes, mosses and ferns all compete to occupy every square inch of space, to grab every bit of available sunlight.  Where does all this energy come from?  How can all this life emerge from winter’s deathscape?

Perhaps that is why we endure our winters, if only to witness year after year this miracle in green.