ERSKINE, Minn. Emberly Lietz welcomes the opportunity to share her house in Erskine with visitors seeking a place to retreat.

Lietz opened the business she calls The Lake House Retreat this spring, after spending the previous four months renovating it with the help of friends and family. The Lake House Retreat is available for rent to individuals or groups for whatever length of time they want to spend there.

Bookings have been better than she dreamed, as people learned about the retreat house through word-of-mouth and social media, Lietz said. From hunters, to writers, to families, guests are reserving slots for the summer, fall, and even next summer.

“It’s exactly what I envisioned: Bringing people together for respite and relaxation,” Lietz said.

Lietz, who lives in Grand Forks and works at the Chamber of Commerce, fell in love with the two-story house in the town of about 500, located 55 miles east of Grand Forks, when she kayaked past it and saw it from the lake side. She had considered buying the house, on Lake Cameron and adjacent to property that her sister owns, but didn't follow up on it until she saw it from the water. That made her realize how much guests would enjoy the view and the opportunity to tie their watercraft at the dock below the house.

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“I thought it would be a perfect retreat house,” Lietz said. After attending a scrapbooking retreat several years ago in Dent, Minn., Lietz became a believer in the benefits derived from getting away from the hectic schedule of day-to-day life and spending time in a quiet location.

“I was hooked, '' Lietz said. “It was magical. It was amazing. When I looked at this place, I wanted to experience that again."

Emberly Leitz opened her Lakehouse retreat on Lake Cameron at Erskine, MN, this spring after several months of renovation. “It’s exactly what I envisioned; bringing people together for respite and relaxation,” Leitz said. Photo by Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald
Emberly Leitz opened her Lakehouse retreat on Lake Cameron at Erskine, MN, this spring after several months of renovation. “It’s exactly what I envisioned; bringing people together for respite and relaxation,” Leitz said. Photo by Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald

Lietz had hoped to open the retreat house in January 2021, but learned after she bought it that the renovation, like many home improvement projects, would take more time than she had anticipated.

The to-do list included knocking out walls to enlarge the bedrooms, installing a new heating system and upgrading the wiring. The 62-year-old house originally was a Red Lake Falls, Minn., convent where the Sisters of St. Joseph lived, and was divided into small classrooms. Thirty-seven years later, the convent house was moved to Erskine, and since then has had a few different owners.

Lietz began tackling renovation in early November 2020, hiring electrical and heating companies to repair those systems. Meanwhile, she and several family members did remodeling, such as knocking out walls, installing wainscoting and painting.

Lietz and her sister, Brandy Chaffee, spent many weekends with hammers, saws and nails.

“I love demolition. Brandy does finishing touches,” Lietz said. Their sister, Peggy Raddatz, an accomplished baker, kept the work crews satiated with treats.

Now Raddatz contributes to the retreat house by making Minnesota-shaped sugar cookies that Lietz tucks into the welcome baskets she gives her guests. Lietz strives to personalize each basket with a unique gift, such as bubbles for children and an adult coloring book for writers.

Each of the five bedrooms in the retreat house has a name with a corresponding theme and can accommodate a total of 10 people. The retreat house rates are based on full occupancy, but any number of people up to that are welcome, and Lietz will adjust her charge accordingly.

No matter the number of guests, Lietz wants them to enjoy the experience as much as she enjoyed the retreat she attended in Dent.

“When I bought this place, I never imagined keeping it for myself. I imagined sharing it,” she said. “Maybe it will bring someone here, and they will get what they need."