LAKE SHORE – Eric Peterson grew up on Gull Lake and while he makes his living via the water, he doesn’t spend much time on the lake’s surface.
Peterson, 39, grew up in the lakes area. He graduated from Pillager High School in 1988 before going to the University of North Dakota for its aeronautical program. Ever since he was a child, Peterson said he was interested in anything with an engine. When he graduated from the flight program, jobs as pilots weren’t particularly abundant. So he got into a sales position in Minneapolis for a small company that built prototypes.
“I’d fly into small airports and deliver the prototypes to the customer,” Peterson said.
But his air career was cut short a few years later when he had a seizure during pre-operation for knee surgery. The seizure meant he wasn’t medically cleared for flight.
“It was interesting, a year later I went back to visit the doctors and review everything just to verify and they said they could find absolutely no results or anything in regard to a seizure so I could have continued the fly part of it but the economy – even then with flight jobs – was so poor I continued down the sales avenue.”
Peterson got a job with Yamaha Motor Corporation motor sports division and worked with the dealer network to sell motorcycles, all-terrain vehicles and snowmobiles. It was a job that allowed plenty of travel and time to live in other states. He did that for more than eight years covering New Mexico, Arizona, northern California, Oregon, Nevada and then Illinois.
Living in Illinois with a young family and a son entering school, Peterson said the decision was made to return to Minnesota in search of better schools and a quality of life. Peterson opened the rental business, Lake Fun Rentals on Interlachen Road, also known as County Road 77, by the Gull Lake public access near Zorbaz restaurant.
An open air cabana desk allows him to be outside and greet customers as they arrive in the expansive yard dotted with boats and watercraft. Another small office is just inside lined with framed photos and a large mounted fish.
This is Lake Fun Rentals third season. The business started out with fishing boats, canoes and Jet Skis, later adding ski boats and pontoons.
“I grew up on the lake,” Peterson said. “My first job was at Bar Harbor tying up boats at 12 so I’ve always been around boats. I’ve always had an interest in motorsports whether it be boats, motorcycles or snowmobiles.”
Running a rental business was intriguing and it allowed Peterson to have the personal contact with customers he enjoyed. The business typically comes from area resorts. This year, Peterson said the weather with its cool temperatures and rain days has been more of a factor than the troubled economy.
“There have been more marginal weather days than good days,” Peterson said.
During the winter, Peterson continues to be a contract employee for Yamaha’s snowmobile division taking customers on demo rides, assisting with dealership training and product seminars and demonstration rides on new products and assisting with race events.
Summers mean working long hours, from 7 a.m. to about 9 p.m. Cleaning up equipment before customers arrive each morning, launching equipment and putting people on the water, doing paperwork and then its getting equipment back in and fueling up for the next day.
“The only downside of the business is it’s seven days a week,” Peterson said. “Basically from May to mid-September you don’t get a day off so you get to the point where you look forward to fall.”
Peterson said the schedule would seem tougher if he weren’t working for himself.
Sam Salutric, Carol Stream, IL. was at Peterson’s open air desk by 8 a.m. last week with plans for a pontoon rental for the family. Salutric said he picked Lake Fun Rentals after looking at Peterson’s Web site.
“And he called me back,” Salutric said.
Looking back, Peterson said the decision to move back to the lakes area and start a business was a good one that allowed more time to spend with family.
“I traveled a lot and in the bigger cities but I’m glad to be back here,” Peterson said, adding he never expected to move back here. “I think sometimes you have to move away from Brainerd to really appreciate how great it is here.”
RENEE RICHARDSON may be reached at email@example.com or 855-5852.