Photo By Josiah Kopp
At the time that Blake Minge was born, his family had multiple restaurants, a construction company, a home delivery food service, a live musical theater, and a gift shop, among other things. Make no mistake about it, entrepreneurship is in his blood.
“I had a very unique childhood and was exposed to many different styles of learning and business ventures from a very young age,” Blake said. “But I always took a pretty big interest in the inner workings of hospitality and taking care of people.”
Eventually, his family purchased 5-6 small restaurants in the lakes area. “I was essentially raised at Spanky’s Stone Hearth the first 15 years of my life,” Blake said. “We had restaurants in Frazee, Otter Tail, Perham, kind of everywhere around the lakes country. I was never really forced to work, I just wanted to hang out with my family and work was what most things revolved around. Our idea of a day off was taking a trip to Fargo to buy some supplies for the restaurants and maybe catching a movie as a family before we headed home to unload the trailer.”
By the time Minge did hit the age of 15, he knew that he wanted to run and own a business and began working for “sweat equity.” His father passed away when he was 17 years old and he ended up facing the decision of either getting involved or selling the business. He decided to take it over and ran it for the next 15 years.
Between then and now, Minge got involved in a number of services in hospitality ventures, including events and catering, before “burning out of the industry” in 2020.
Then, he began talking with the owners of Sota Lake Properties and quickly joined on as a partner in June of 2022.
“What they were doing was essentially hospitality in a different sense,” Blake said. “It was enjoying all the things that lakes country in Minnesota has to offer, and really aligned with what I like doing, helping take care of people. I also always really wanted to have that awesome vacation at the lakes, but summertime was our busy time growing up. And so I think that’s kind of where that passion to give others something that I maybe didn’t have as much as I had wanted.”
Now, Blake is applying his entrepreneurial spirit to Sota Lake Properties in an attempt to “grow and refine” the business. In his short time with Sota, the company has grown from managing 30 properties to 72 properties, all on Minnesota lakes.
We asked Blake if he had any local music recommendations and he did, his nephew and niece Dave Lee and Cassandra Mae, who will be forming a new group called Rival Kin.
“They’ve performed in our live musical theater from the time they were probably eight years old so getting to watch them is always a treat.”
Blake’s Perfect Lake Day
“A perfect lake day for me would mean me getting up before sunrise and going down to sit by the calm lake to watch the sun come up. I’m not a coffee drinker, but I’d really like to get things going around 10 or 11 with a nice bloody mary or mimosa. Then, I’d take out my kayak or paddleboard. Morning is a great time to take a little stroll around the lake. By mid-day, though, I’m ready for something with a little more speed and am probably getting out on the pontoon or on a jet ski for some fun. Once I’m done with that, I’ll take a bike ride in Perham. We’ve got the new Heartland trail which goes right by one of our properties and it’s nice to get on a bike and head down that. I’m a big cook, so I enjoy grilling. That means we will be having hamburgers or brats for lunch and then finishing off the night with some steak or salmon cooked over charcoal. It’s really just great to be free and not have much to do when you’re at the lakes.”
Blake’s Favorite Lakes Area Bars & Restaurants
#1) Spanky’s Stone Hearth: “I definitely have to say Spanky’s. With me growing up there for the first 15 years of my life, I don’t think there’s a part of that building that doesn’t bring back some childhood memory. Whether it was cooking in the kitchen from the time I was four years old until I was 15 or serving tables or even learning to bartend, Spanky’s has always been so great to me. Josh did a phenomenal job out there and really took it to another level over 20 years of his ownership and I’m excited to see where the new ownership now takes it with Matt, Jared, and Michael. That restaurant has always put out great food and great cocktails.”
#2) The Cactus: “I really appreciate The Cactus in Perham, it’s kind of in my blood. I was involved with it for 15 years of my life. Watching what Lucas, the new owner there, is doing to adapt to the new world is awesome. He’s really staying creative and kind of putting a new spin on what my family did there.”
#3) Long Bridge: “I really enjoy Long Bridge up in Detroit Lakes. I think they’ve done a phenomenal job with the renovations that they’ve done and I think they’ve really put together a creative beachy menu. Going out there on Sunday afternoons is always fun to listen to some live music and be on the water.”
Blake’s Lake Tips & Hacks
Check Your Lake Levels: “Always keep an eye on the lake levels. Last year, we had probably 10 to 15 calls from people that couldn’t get their boats and pontoons out of the water at the end of the season. If you don’t watch them, you can have a pretty costly problem come September or October.”
Hire a Property Manager: “People don’t realize how much work a lake place is. It takes a lot to keep it optimized and maintained. You can find yourself hiring a handyman to do lawn care, clean the gutters out, and staining decks. As beautiful as it is to live out here, there’s a lot of work that goes into it. At Sota, we own a lawn care company, a landscaping company, and we do some interior design. So, we really help bridge that gap and connect homeowners with the right vendors. If they’re not available, we have some handymen available to take on some of those services. We also do snow removal and house checkups in the winter. Having something like this can really take away a lot of stress for the homeowner.”
Blake’s Lake Product Recommendations
Paradise Spa Vac: “I’m a big fan of hot tubs, but when you have them at the lake, it’s inevitable that you are going to get sand in the bottom of it. People think you have to drain the whole thing to get it out, but you don’t. I got a couple of Paradise Spa Vacs from Olson Pools & Spas. It’s one of my favorite tools and I use it weekly to keep my hot tubs clean and fresh.”
A Good Pressure Washer: “I think everybody should have a really good pressure washer in Minnesota lakes country. I always stick with a Honda gas-powered pressure washer for the-high-pressure needs. If I’m going to go with an electric brand, I like to go with Blue Clean.”
Google Smart Home: “I like to try to put smart switches on everything, especially my exterior lights so that they can turn on and off at a certain time. It’s really more about convenience and not having to worry about things like that.”
Blake’s Favorite Lakes Area Events & Activities
Perham Turtle Fest
“This is number one for me. It’s basically the summer kickoff event over in Perham. There’s a street dance. There are all kinds of vendors that come in and basically take over downtown Perham. It’s just so cool to see the influx of people coming to town to celebrate the start of summer.”
Turtle Fest took place June 14-18, but make sure to check it out next summer!
“This is an obvious one, but I really enjoy WE Fest. I’ve been involved with the event in some way, shape, or form my entire life. It’s always fun to see an event of that magnitude come together. And the artists that they are able to bring is incredible.”
It’s not too late to get your tickets for this event, which kicks off August 3!
Fourth of July in Detroit Lakes
“The Fourth of July in Detroit Lakes has always been a top 10 event of the year for me. I just like getting out on the lakes. I’ve done it since I was you know 15 or 16 years old. We were always on the sandbar and just enjoyed Detroit Lakes. It was amazing seeing the fireworks and the community come together.”
Vergas Looney Days
“I really like Looney Days in Vergas, another small-town festival. Growing up in Frazee, we would always go to this. My aunt had the best loon call and she won the loon calling contest probably six or seven years in a row. I was not graced with that talent.”
Get your loon calls ready for this event which takes place August 11-13.
The Perham Chamber Golf Scramble
“I’m on the board of directions for this event and it’s always fun to get involved with the planning and execution of it.”