BREEZY POINT — Bob Spizzo is proud of his business success, and he is humble.
The CEO of Breezy Point Resort has no designated parking space at the Pelican Lake Resort, which his family has owned for 41 years.
He drives an 11-year-old car.
He picks up trash at the resort and turns off the lights.
And he doesn’t care about official titles. In fact, he is known to refer to his Jamaican and Mexican employees as “Uncle Bob.”
“I don’t show off my success. I’d rather share it than show it off,” Spizzo said. “But when I see all the things we’ve done, I feel proud.”
Note that Spizzo said “we”, not “I.” He credits others for his achievements – including his family, staff and bankers, who all believed in him.
In recognition of his long career at the resort, Spizzo will receive the Business Heritage Award on November 11 at the Brainerd Lake Chamber of Commerce’s Celebration of Excellence. 17 Resorts in Cragun.
“Developer, visionary and owner of Breezy Point Resort, Bob Spizzo began his journey in 1977. Bob joined Whitebirch, Inc. as a salesperson developing and marketing the 3,000-acre residential complex surrounding Breezy Point Resort ,” the chamber said in announcing the award.
“It was his drive, determination and commitment that gave him the opportunity to go from sale to owning the resort in 1981,” the chamber said.
Spizzo said the arrival of the award was completely unexpected.
“I didn’t expect it. I just felt so honored,” he said.
When asked to define his legacy in an interview in a Breeze Point Resort conference room, Spizzo said: “My legacy is to see how many generations come back and say, ‘You’re still here.'”
His work is everything to him.
“I own four golf courses; I don’t play golf. I own a marina; I don’t boat or fish. So they say, what are you doing for fun? I come to Breeze Point. It’s my fun. It’s My hobby. It’s my life. I love seeing things develop,” Spizzo said. “I like to come up with a new idea and say, ‘Let’s try it.'”
He thanked his supportive family, including Kay, his wife of 55, and his three children – Tom, Marisa and David.
“I have a wife who knows I have to work. That’s what drives me,” Spizzo said. “But for me, it doesn’t work anymore. For me, every time I come to the office is a new challenge.”
He is grateful for a great team that has supported him for better or worse, especially those who have worked with him for decades, including Dave Gravdahl and Joyce Bzoskie.
This is what he is most proud of.
“I was able to attract loyal, dedicated, honest people who have been with me from day one,” Spizzo said. “We don’t have a glass ceiling at Breezy, so at Breezy Point, women do most of the management.”
Among them is Bzoskie, president of the resort’s parent company, Whitebirch Inc., which was established to market and develop the land surrounding the resort.
Like any business, the resort – which employs 200 people year-round and 700-800 during the prime season – has had rough years with ups and downs. For better or worse, Spizzo says, he has always been candid with bankers.
“They believed in me and they still believe in me,” he said.
Likewise, there are good and bad decisions made. The point is to do more of the good than the bad.
Challenges include the COVID-19 pandemic, and a year in which interest rates soared to 18%. The challenge that remains is finding employees, especially motivated ones.
Due to a lack of workers, the Spizzo family—including Bob—has made beds and cleaned toilets at the resort.
“If I didn’t have foreign workers now, I wouldn’t have chefs. I wouldn’t have servers. We wouldn’t be here,” he said.
Regarding regrets, Spizzo said: “I just regret that we didn’t grow faster, mostly because I saw my body clock ticking, and there were so many things on my bucket list that I wanted to accomplish in Breezy Point.”
Spizzo is most motivated when told that something can’t be done.
“Then I have to prove to other people and myself that yes, it can be done,” he said. “I’m lucky that I can see things that others can’t.”
He was surrounded by support staff.
“I don’t have anyone around me who is a ‘yes,'” he said, noting that he wanted a different opinion. “I’m surrounded by people who are smarter than me.”
In one example of visionary, Breeze Point Resort attracted year-round clients by building a hockey rink on County Road 11.
“It just changes the overall complexity of the resort, we’re a true year-round resort,” Spizzo said.
His bucket list includes developing a second ice at the rink.
Spizzo is also proud of more than 10,000 timeshare owners purchasing at the Breezy Point Resort. He touts active adult housing, which has been filled and is still being built using labor from the local lake region.
Spizzo has enjoyed the development of the Breezy Point Resort.
“As society changes, we have to change with it,” he said, noting that he never imagined the resort would employ more than 75 foreign workers, most of whom are now from Jamaica and Mexico.
“They’re actually more expensive than American employees I can’t find,” Spizzo said.
The resort recently spent $1.5 million to build dormitories for expatriate workers.
“We see the ability to bring in foreign students as a very important part of Breezy Point’s development,” he said.
While Spizzo has no plans to retire – he does now take half a day off on Sundays – he also prides himself on working side by side with one of his sons.
“I’m lucky. David Spizzo has taken over more and more of my responsibilities, and I can’t find a better replacement. He has the same dreams as me. He grew up in this industry,” Sr. Pizzo said, noting that David started picking up trash at the resort with his father on Sunday mornings when he was 9 or 10 years old.
Now the third generation has also joined. At the age of 11, David’s son made money by vacuuming at the resort.
Spizzo sees Breezy Point Resort’s future as something they’re already doing. In addition to the second tier of ice and more active adult housing, Spizzo also mentioned the goal of expanding the Cuyona Regional Medical Center clinic and adding more rooms/accommodations to accommodate people drawn to the area.
What makes him happy is seeing everyone else happy, whether it’s a guest, employee, or lender.
“When they’re happy, I’ll do the right thing,” Spizzo said, “and pay the interest on time.”
Seeing people at the resort’s beach, parking lot, and breakfast in the morning made him feel good.
He always comes back to “we”, not “me”.
“We did it together,” he said. “That’s why I’m so honored and humbled. I’m a very humble person and I can’t be more grateful.”
He is grateful for good health, a wonderful family and the Breezy Point community they love.
Spizzo said there are three things in life: something to do; something to look forward to; and people to love.
He owns all three.
Business Heritage Award Winner
- Stewart C. Mills Jr. (2016)
- Arnie Johnson (2017)
- Paul and Lynn Hunter (2018)
- The Dutch and Irma Kragon (2019)
- Ron and Al Lindner (2021)
- Bob Spizzo (2022)
Editor Nancy Vogt can be reached at 218-855-5877 or by email at email@example.com. Follow her on Facebook and Twitter: www.twitter.com/@PEJ_Nancy.
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