Crunch Time: Getting Ready to Open Camp
Apr. 20, 2015
Our friends and guests know all about the Aikens Experience, but not everyone gets to see what goes into creating the Aikens Experience in the weeks before we open our doors for a new season. So we thought we would share a little “behind-the-scenes” peak at some of the craziness we go through in preparing the camp during these final weeks before that glorious day––May 23–– when our first guests of the year land on the dock.
“It’s crunch time,” said Patrick Trudel. “It’s such a busy time, but we love it. It’s extremely hard work, but it’s so exciting.”
The pace of preparation these final six weeks in getting ready the cabins, boats, Big Molly’s Bar, docks, shore lunch stations, fishing gear, food and drinks is fast and furious. But one of the most critical time frames for preparation occurs the previous autumn.
“In the fall I go to into every cabin, and check every corner, making notes about what’s working and what’s not, from everything to counting every lightbulb to counting fitted sheets,” explained Julie Turenne. “Throughout the winter and spring, I try to be as efficient as I can be in ordering and picking up all of our supplies.”
Julie is responsible for buying everything from chocolate bars and nuts to re-stocking the popcorn at Big Molly’s (we go through a lot of popcorn night after night!). Plus little issues pop up like the broken ice machine in the lodge that requires a new part we absolutely cannot find in any physical store, so Julie tracked it down online and ordered it over the web.
“Julie is the perfect Queen Bee,” said Aikens majority partner Chris Jensen. “She’s so organized and on top of everything, it’s amazing, really.”
There’s also the task of stocking up the Aikens gift shop, which also requires an autumn audit to know exactly how many of every item in every size remains. This year, we’re excited to have launched our online store so that people can conveniently order Aikens items year-round.
“The cool thing about our online store is it allows us to try out new products in smaller quantities to find out what our guests want,” Julie said. “We recently added merchandise with the Century Club logo so that’s been really fun for people to be able to get hats and shirts showcasing that they made the Century Club.”
On the topic of the Century Club and fishing, we also finish off all our hiring in the early spring months. This year we hired eight new employees … if you count Arthur, Patrick and Janelle’s baby boy born in January. We have three new staff in housekeeping, one baker, one dockhand, one new guide and one in manual labor.
“We got some great new staff coming into join our team,” Julie said. “We interview everybody one-on-one, and we get a lot of referrals and really value word-of-mouth recommendations. We want someone who will fit in. We can teach them everything they need to know, but we can’t teach them the personality. We hire people who love being here and who enjoy helping our guests have the best time possible.”
Often that “best time possible” includes a few celebratory drinks during our complementary happy hour, so we do fly in a full plane of booze before any guests arrive … so we’re ready for that first week!
“I keep 60 cases of beer locked up at all times as my emergency stock,” said Julie. “During the spring, I also make the rounds and buy all the specific specialty drinks that various guests like.”
Flying in the kegs of beer we have on tap at Big Molly’s is no small task either, as each keg weighs a few hundred pounds.
“Julie works so hard the entire year, but getting everything ready in the final months before opener is one of her busiest times of year, and she doesn’t get the recognition she deserves for it,” said Pit. “She does an amazing job!”
Another of Julie’s task is to help organize a full week with 30 to 40 volunteers who help us get ready. We are so fortunate to have friends and family members come help us, and during that time we have an entire day of planes flying in supplies.
“Last year on May 17 we had 14 flights full of supplies,” said Julie, who also works on the flight schedule during these prep weeks. “The next day we had two more planes and the following day had four planes carrying everything from Band-Aids to Tupperware to new fishing nets to cleaning supplies.”
This year, Pit and Julie will fly out to Aikens in early May, with the rest of the gang following shortly after that. If you’re excited for the new season at Aikens, know that we are, too! And we know opening day will get here fast.
“You should see my office right now,” said Julie. “There are papers everywhere. I have all sorts of lists pinned all over my walls.”