The once vibrant and busy Hollow Valley Resort was left to be reclaimed by nature more than 10 years ago, but Shaun Pennell, and his partner Chris Skrzek, saw something in it, bought it in 2021, and have brought parts of it back to life.

“It has had a long and storied history,” said Skrzek. “It was built as a hunting lodge back in the 40s, and then the 80s and 90s was its heyday as a family campground with the lodge and a tavern at the front of the property.”

The tavern was built in the 30s and people remembered it, according to Pennell. “We hear all these wild stories about, back in the day, what a great place, and stuff like that.” However, the original tavern was slowly sinking into the ground and the previous owners had it torn down approximately five years ago. “Apparently it was a sad day for the community, but it was time for it to go. Our goal is to try and start something new, create new memories,” said Skrzek.

The 10-acre waterfront property is on the Gull River fed by Kawagama Lake that has access to the Lake of Bays at Dorset. “We have seven rooms in the lodge, available since May long weekend,” said Pennell. “Right now, we have cabins that came with the property that we are looking to renovate and/or replace over time. The end goal is to have 33 cabins, the lodge, a live music venue, and then, down the road, we have approvals to build a 20-room hotel with restaurant.”

Pennell and Skrzek are passionate about live music, and that was the shared goal when they became partners in the venture. “An environmentally-friendly, sustainable resort with a major focus on the arts, primarily live music,” explains Pennell. “We are building this in stages. We focused on the lodge first because we wanted to get it up and running as quickly as we could.”

There was an overwhelmingly positive response to the opening of the lounge and bar in February. “We wanted to get the snowmobiling crowd,” said Pennell. “In the 80s and 90s, this used to be a happening place – sleds, cars, music.”

There is live music, on Friday and Saturday nights, on Sunday an open jam night, which has become very popular. “People wondered, why Sunday?” said Pennell, “The locals, and local musicians are the ones that are enjoying that night the most. This room is full of musicians, both performing and in the audience. One night we had about 10 players on the stage having a great time,” said Pennell.

Pennell said that they are building things up slowly, hoping to work on a cabin or two per year. “It’s going to take us a long time to build this thing out to fully realize our dream. But that’s okay with us.”