How the heck did we wind up at Island View?

I (Erin) am from Racine, WI. My family owns a cabin just outside of Bruce in northwestern Wisconsin, on Amacoy Lake. We would go to the cabin for two weeks every summer and it was the highlight of my life and all I talked about year-round. To say I was obsessed would be an understatement. The wallpaper of my bedroom was topo maps of Rusk County and I had a collection of lake water brought home in various jars and bottles on display. My goal in life was to one day live in that cabin. I could never find a job in the area and eventually wound up moving to Colorado. I spent all of my vacation time travelling back to the cabin and once I was able to work remotely, I worked from there as much as my boss would let me. Although I enjoyed the first few years in Colorado, it had become increasingly crowded and expensive and I wanted out.

During the summer of 2018, while working from the cabin, a For Sale sign went up at the resort on Amacoy Lake. I immediately pounced, toured the place, and then made Alex come from Colorado to look at it. The place was literally in ruin – it had been hit by a tornado and they hadn’t so much as put a tarp over the missing roofs. That didn’t stop me – we put in an offer. [This was actually fate: the bank that financed that resort was so desperate to get rid of it that they approved us for a business loan. This is the approval that got us the loan for Island View. If we hadn’t tried to buy the decrepit resort first, there is no way we would have qualified for a business loan – we had no experience whatsoever and (until I sold my house) no money].  I never gave a thought to the idea of actually owning a resort – I just wanted to live on my precious lake. As it turned out, they were insane on their price and wouldn’t come down even though we offered more than it was appraised for. I thought, “Oh well, it was worth a try” and figured that was the end of it. I had no intention of looking for more resorts – I had just wanted to live there. What I never expected was for Alex, who liked Colorado and his job there and didn’t want to move, to continue looking for resorts. He was probably tired of listening to me complain that I hated my life and just wanted me to shut up.

By Christmas of 2018, he had lined up five resorts to come and look at that were in our price range and met our criteria: on a lake we deemed cool, on ATV & snowmobile trails and preferably north of Highway 8. He found Island View on Craigslist. Four out of the five resorts we looked at were open for business at the time so we saw the working kitchens and were immediately scared off – no way did we want a restaurant. Neither of us like to or want to cook. We planned on serving nothing but frozen pizzas and only at night, if we even had a bar. Island View was closed for the winter when we looked at it. All of the kitchen equipment was in storage or covered up so we didn’t realize that it was an actual restaurant kitchen. Hey, no one said we were smart. The lake was frozen, there was snow on the ground and it wasn’t shoveled so we barely looked at the cabins and the current owners were inside the house so we really didn’t get to see very much.

After pretty much no research, absolutely no looking into the area or possible clientele we’d be dealing with or any clue what operating a resort actually meant, we put in an offer. After a few back and forths, we had a deal. We had to go from living a peaceful bordering on hermitic life in Colorado to selling our house to moving across the country to re-opening a resort that had been closed for 8 months in a matter of a few months.  Our first time in Mercer was the day we looked at Island View. Since it was snow-covered that day, we didn’t even know if Fisher Lake Rd was paved. The only two questions we could think of to ask the owners were “Can you get mail here or do you have to have a P.O. box?” and “Does the bar come with a cash register?”

As it turns out, we could not have lucked into a better resort or area to be in. The people who come here, whether locals or cabin renters or random people who stop by, are fantastic and I don’t say that lightly. In fact, before moving here I don’t think I ever said it. I was a pretty miserable person. I thought it was me but it turns out it was my surroundings. Moving to Mercer and being surrounded by laid back, happy, successful, helpful and supportive people is contagious. I left the cloud of negativity I was bogged down by when I left my old job and neighborhood and I could not be happier, even if I somehow became a full time cook.

Signing the paper saying we accept John & Judy’s counteroffer
Our very first time behind the bar (any bar!)

Alex Barnes

You may know him from making your drinks, fixing your toilet and/or helping you get your boat started. He is a jack of all trades and Island View’s saving grace. Born and raised in south Mississippi, he has worked an array of jobs from roofer to construction to highway striper to mechanic. His favorite activities are off-roading in his rock crawler and off shore fishing.

Erin Doonan

You may know her from her unnecessarily long Facebook posts or because she fries your fish. Erin was born and raised in Racine, Wisconsin, a city to this day she believes is among the worst in existence. She attended the UW-Stevens Point and majored in Wildlife Management with the goal of never having to work at a desk. She spent the next 13 years at a desk, doing GIS. She made maps of just about anything, but specialized in city utilities. Her favorite thing is “life on the open road” – having visited 49 states and much of Canada while living out of a van with her two dogs, Tiny and Chow.