Ely Business Owners Optimistic for Brighter Days Ahead

From Taprooms to Outfitters, Ely Businesses Remain Optimistic as Summer Tourism Season Inches Closer

ELY, Minn. – As the pandemic continues, there’s no doubt about it, many of us are counting down the days until summer finally sets in, allowing for more time outdoors, and the perfect setting to safely visit with friends and family.

“All the campsites are at least 1/8 mile apart, so I guess social distancing is just perfect. You can’t ask for anything better,” said John O’Kane, owner of Voyageur North Canoe Outfitters in Ely, Minnesota.

A trip to the Boundary Waters brings satisfaction and security for those concerned with the spread of COVID-19.

“It’s a fun business, you’re dealing with people, they’re on vacation, and they’re happy to be here,” said O’Kane.

For O’Kane, the excitement is building as he and his team prepare for their 40th year in business.

“Last year was down in May and June; this year looks like I’m up,” said O’Kane.

His business, Voyageur North Canoe Outfitters, is situated just miles away from the great BWCA.

“The Canadian side is closed down so we get a lot more pressure on the BWCA,” said O’Kane.

With the closure of the Canadian border, O’Kane is hoping for a boom in business in the months ahead.

“I have a lot of experienced fishing guides. We can tell you where the fish are biting, how deep of water,” said O’Kane.

He says with him and his team, guests are guaranteed the best outdoor experience, especially if it’s their first time venturing in.

As for when to book your next or first excursion, O’Kane says sooner is better than later.

“Book your permit as early as you can, figure out your dates, and book it no matter what,” said O’Kane.

Just one mile down the block, the owner of the Boathouse Brew Pub, Brian Tome, is optimistic as the seasons change.

“The pandemic was – it was rough, but we’re going to get through this and we’re going to get there,” said Tome. “The hard part was just being able to get everybody in to serve them properly. We did see a lot of people in here this last summer for sure and in town in general.”

With more shots going into the arms of individuals, Tome believes there are brighter days ahead as he and his staff continue to safely welcome customers in for a pint and a bite to eat.

“Our customers feel it’s a very safe environment which is wonderful to hear,” said Tome.

It’s the safety and serenity of the great north woods these business owners will never take for granted as it serves as a lifeline during such a rough time.

“One thing I guess that I hope everybody has gotten out of this pandemic so far is — let’s be done packing restaurants like sardine cans. I think people enjoy the spaciousness walking around,” said Tome.

As Voyageur North Canoe Outfitters celebrates its 40th year in business, they say to stay tuned for special offers in the months ahead.

As for the Boathouse, they’re working on expanding after first opening back in 2007. Customers can expect a new lounge to be opening up on the second floor of their building.

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