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Lasting legacy on the lake: One generation after the other, Campbell’s continues to thrive

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Campbell’s Resort provides guests with a quiet place to rest during the late fall.

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When Clinton Cyrus Campbell built the first hotel on the outlet shores of Lake Chelan in 1901, it was an immediate success.

Known then as Hotel Chelan, its guests enjoyed an adventurous steamboat ride up the Columbia River to the Chelan Falls landing, then a dusty stage coach ride up the narrow and steep road to the lake.

But C.C., as he was known, had no idea that, more than a century later, his hotel would become the only destination resort on the lake — popular with out-of-town visitors as well as locals.

I enjoy having a first-class resort within walking distance of our main office in Chelan,” said Scott Anderson, president of North Cascades Bank. “Whether for private meetings with clients, training events, or larger company gatherings, Campbell’s provides the best-in-class service that keeps us coming back.”

And Anderson appreciates the natural beauty of the site, just as C.C. did more than a century ago.

Being a financial institution headquartered in Chelan, we frequently have visitors from out of the area,” Anderson said. “Campbell’s Resort provides a convenient and inviting place for them to stay, and for those first-time visitors, a wonderful introduction to Lake Chelan and the beauty of North Central Washington.”

Anderson isn’t the only one to recognize Campbell’s quality of service.

At the Washington Family Business Awards presentations held at the Bell Harbor International Conference Center last year, Seattle Business magazine honored Campbell’s Resort on Lake Chelan with its prestigious Legacy Award. The Legacy Award honors a company that celebrates progressive family management over multiple generations.

And in this year’s King5.com and Evening Magazine’s Best of the Northwest Escapes contest, Campbell’s won in two categories — Best Resort and Best Guy’s Weekend Destination.

Campbell’s Resort, 104 W. Woodin Ave., is the only true resort on Lake Chelan. It hugs the lake’s sandy edge on the north side of the outlet. The horseshoe-shaped resort fills eight acres, has five main buildings and features 16 different room types. The resort’s border to the north is the City of Chelan Marina, and Woodin Avenue defines the south edge of the property, just as it did when Hotel Chelan was new. The business employs between 130 and 300 people, depending on the season. Six members of the Campbell family work at the business.

While the beauty of Lake Chelan remains virtually the same as it was in 1901, C.C. Campbell may be hard-pressed to recognize his successful hotel today. Each succeeding generation of the Campbell family has improved or expanded the facility. The original hotel remains the heart of the business, with its now-enclosed veranda providing similar views of the streetscape, bridge and lake it offered generations ago. Old photos, from the original hotel forward, have been digitized and are displayed in the resort’s downstairs bistro restaurant.

The Campbell family has taken care to preserve the ambiance of its early 20th century roots, but it has also kept pace with modern trends and technology. This award-winning resort offers one of the finest conference centers in Washington, featuring state-of-the-art audio and visual capabilities with wifi access, nine conference room layouts and a plethora of catering options. The Conference Center was added around the original hotel structure.

The Conference Center has become a big part of our business in our shoulder seasons,” said Clint Campbell, director of sales and marketing and fourth-generation owner. “It has been a very important part of our growth.”

The resort also has a professional spa catering to bachelorette and wedding parties, offering massages, facials, manicures, pedicures, body treatments and make-up services. For large private parties, it may be booked exclusively for a half day or a full day.

As the structure of Campbell’s Resort has changed over the years, so has its mission.

We’re way past the hotel aspect of our business,” said Tom Campbell, C.C.’s great-great-grandson. “We’re in the memory creation business now. Today it takes a lot more than a bed surrounded by four walls to make a memorable experience. We want to help create unforgettable memories on Lake Chelan.”

Brothers Eric, 31, and Tom, 29, are fifth-generation owners of the destination resort. Both experienced professional life outside of the resort before returning to manage the family business.

The brothers attended the University of Puget Sound in Tacoma. Eric earned a degree in politics, and Tom’s degree is in finance and business management. They lived together in Seattle for several years while working separately in the real estate business; Eric was a commercial real estate broker and Tom was a commercial real estate appraiser.

We wanted to get some real estate experience so we could effectively manage our properties here in Chelan,” Eric said. He joined the resort in 2009 and is now vice president of operations. He also serves on the Chelan Chamber of Commerce board of directors.

Tom has a real passion for food, and joined the family business three years later as the food and beverage director. He works closely with chef Troy Nesvacil, who has been with Campbell’s Resort for 17 years.

The fifth-generation owners have some ideas of their own for the future of Campbell’s Resort, but the brothers are wisely taking the long-term perspective.

Every generation before us had done something big,” Eric said. “We’re looking at the next 15-to 20- year timeframe to make our mark on the business.”

But the youthful energy the two brothers bring to the table has already made an impact on the family business. They’ve joined forces with the hospitality wisdom of the fourth generation to begin a new enterprise, the Campbell Management Company. In September, it assumed the management of the Grandview on the Lake condo-hotel, which is located directly across the bridge to the south of Campbell’s Resort.

This represents a new dynamic for our 112-year-old business, as we are no longer focusing only on a single property,” Tom said. “The fourth and fifth generations working side by side on this new platform will help balance operational responsibilities and long-term strategic goals of this new enterprise.”

Art Campbell III, Eric and Tom’s father, is president and general manager of Campbell’s Resort. He gives credit where credit is due.

The development of our management company is directly attributable to having fifth-generation owner/operator leadership, energy, and passion for our business,” he said. “We also have a core group of highly skilled managers that have helped us grow our business, and we’re fortunate to have them.”

As the new venture for the family business unfolds, the brothers are keenly aware of the importance of not getting ahead of themselves. Time is on their side when planning for the future.

Right now we just need to focus on doing our jobs,” Tom said. “Sometimes we get so wrapped up in our daily work, it’s like the we-can’t-see-the-forest-for-the-trees kind of thing. We have to work together as a team as we forge the business ahead.”

The Campbell family’s sixth generation is just starting to come on line. Eric and his wife, Nicole, recently celebrated the birth of their first child, Luke.

It’s rare and refreshing to see a family business pass through so many generations and still be relevant,” said Dean Neff, owner of Nefarious Cellars in Chelan. “The Campbells are not just behind the scenes, but on the front lines as well. They know that by promoting not just their business, but all the happenings around the lake, their guests will be the beneficiaries.”

Promoting Lake Chelan was what C.C. Campbell was all about.

There’s an old story about my great-grandfather C.C. Campbell sitting in the veranda of his new hotel with his son, Arthur,” Clint said. “He said to his son, ‘You know, Art, this town is getting so busy, that hardly an hour goes by that a buggy doesn’t come across that bridge.’ ”

If only Clinton Cyrus Campbell could see how far his dream has come.

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