Rave Wine Then Dine

May 1, 2002
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GRAND HAVEN — Many people have fleeting moments where they envision themselves retiring to a small town and operating a bed and breakfast.

The moment was more than fleeting for Mo Rave and his wife, Parry Rasmussen. They acted on it.

Four years later, as they prepare for the busy summer tourist season, the owners of Khardomah Lodge in Grand Haven find themselves with a growing business and the lifestyle they wanted when they decided to change careers and go into the lodging business.

"It was the fantasy of a congenial lifestyle, if nothing else," said Rave, a former wine wholesaler who sold his business six years ago and has become active in promoting the local tourism trade since moving to Grand Haven.

Rave, 55, serves as president of the Grand Haven-Spring Lake Visitors Bureau. It's through that position he became involved as promoter for the UPS Grand Haven Race Car Festival planned June 10-12, an event that was first envisioned by two local businessmen who simply wanted to attract customers by exhibiting a race car in front of their stores.

A meeting between them, the visitors bureau and The Chamber of Commerce led to a broader one-day event that has since grown into three days and includes scheduled appearances by NASCAR drivers Johnny Benson and Tony Stewart. Rave, as head of the visitors bureau's board, agreed to act as promoter, even though he's "not really" much of a race fan.

"It seemed to me that what we're supposed to do is increase the tourism traffic in Grand Haven, so I said, 'That's what we ought to do,'" he said.

Building tourist traffic, especially during the off-season months of the year, is the primary focus for Rave and the visitors bureau. Rave, who was recently re-elected to a new three-year term on the bureau's board of directors, sees plenty of untapped potential to grow the tourism economy in Grand Haven.

Despite the town's popularity as a destination, the tourism economy has not been embraced as strongly by some local community leaders as it has in other communities.

"We could do better. It's a natural resort community," said Rave, who believes Grand Haven could grow its tourism economy without becoming "another Mackinaw City."

Rave's move into the role of bed and breakfast owner came after he spent most of his career in wine wholesaling, a business he entered when he went to work for his father in Ann Arbor. That was after working in his post-college years for a Dow Chemical subsidiary and spending five years in the Air Force as a missile launch officer at Minot Air Force Base in North Dakota.

His father, after retiring as a Dow executive in Midland, moved to Ann Arbor and became a wholesaler of imported wines. After several years together, Rave left and started his own wine wholesale and importing business in Grand Rapids, Rave Wines, in 1983.

Over the years he built a solid business that registered more than $4 million in annual sales.

By the mid-1990s, as the industry changed and went through a period of consolidation, Rave was getting inquiries about selling his business. He finally worked out a deal and sold the business in 1996 to Kent Beverage, a competitor.

While he initially wasn't looking to sell the business, Rave had grown somewhat weary of life as a small business owner and had plenty of opportunity to sell. He also had accomplished what he had set out to do when he started — build a successful business of his own — and concluded that it was time to move on.

"I'd done what I wanted to do," Rave said. "It just made sense."

Rave joined Kent Beverage after the sale, working full-time as he explored a new career. His goal was to "find something fun." That process led he and Patty to consider buying a bed and breakfast.

"I knew I didn't want to work the rest of my life in the wine business," Rave said. "I thought, 'I've got an adult life here and I have to work at it no matter what I'm doing, so I might as well enjoy it."

After looking for the right opportunity that offered a sustainable living, even considering California's Napa Valley, Rave and Rasmussen decided to buy Khardomah Lodge from Steve Loftis, the owner of the Snug Harbor restaurant in Grand Haven and a wine customer of Rave's who had occasionally pitched the idea to him of buying the bed and breakfast.

Rave remained at Kent Beverage part-time after he and Patty acquired Khardomah Lodge in 1998, figuring they could run the bed and breakfast on the side.

They were wrong, he said.

While catering to guests kept them busy for just a few months of the year, maintaining the lodge and marketing the business is a year-round, full-time job.

But it is one, he said, that met his expectations of life after leaving the wine business.           

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