Bev Chartier looks around her lifelong home and can’t believe her eyes.
It’s been 60 years since Chartier moved to a resort on the edge of the Chippewa River that became home to the Mallard Resort and Mallard Bar — an annual home to 29 campers and a favorite stop among boaters who wander off Lake Wissota for an ice cold beer.
“I think ‘My God, I can’t believe it’s been 60 years’,” Chartier said. “I was 10 when I came here.”
Chartier says there’s so much history at the Mallard, a history that will be celebrated Sunday with a 60th anniversary celebration from 2-5 p.m.
To Chartier, it seems just like yesterday that her parents, Ralph and Marion Bergholtz, learned of a business opportunity north of Chippewa Falls off of Highway 178.
The Bergholzes were running a store in Lawton, near Ellsworth, back in 1946 when their Schwan’s meat distributor told them about a business opportunity at the Mallard Hatchery near Chippewa Falls.
“He told them they should go look at it,” Chartier said.
The couple took the man’s advice and made the trip to Chippewa Falls.
“They loved it. The next day they bought it,” she said.
Ralph paid cash for the property, Chartier said.
“I still have the savings book that shows that he went and withdrew $18,000 the day he bought it,” she said.
The resort’s four cabins had no water or plumbing. As a matter of fact, they didn’t even have bathrooms.
The Bergholzes spent the next few years upgrading the facilities, including adding campsites at the resort.
“In 1959 the bar and the house I lived in were sold,” Chartier said.
Two years later, in 1961, Ralph passed away at age 52, leaving Marion with a resort to operate on her own. She bought the bar back in 1966.
Marion Bergholtz vowed never to sperate the resort and bar again. That’s held true for the past 40 years, even though for the past 10 years the bar has been leased to a series of private operators.
In 1971, Chartier joined Bergholtz as a business partner. Chartier leased the Mallard from her mother in 1973 and 1974, and bought the property outright in 1975. Today Chartier still owns the bar, four cottages and 25 campsites.
In 1982 Chartier met a man named Frank Vorblosky, who stayed at the resort for 18 years until his death in 2000. Chartier said he was one of the greatest handymen she’d ever met and helped with much of the upkeep of the complex and spearheaded many of the resort’s improvements. Four years later, Marion Bergholtz passed away.
But Chartier hasn’t been left alone. The seasonal campers make sure things at the Mallard are up and running in tip-top condition.
“I’m so fortunate for the people who come camp here,” Chartier said. “If not for them I wouldn’t still be here.”
For example, at the beginning and end of each camp season, they organize a work day to keep the grounds in operating condition.
Chartier says she loves it at the Mallard, if for no other reason that it’s home.
It’s given her a lifetime of memories and the seasons give her plenty to look forward to.
“People always ask what I do out here all by myself in the winter,” Chartier said.
“But there’s nothing like getting up after a new snowfall and the only tracks are from the squirrels who were going tree to tree,” she said.
In the fall she looks forward to the trees turning and as winter approaches she enjoys waiting for the river to freeze over. Spring brings the anticipation of the frozen river showing its first signs of open water and summer brings all the Mallard’s visitors.
“The boaters come here off the river to have a few drinks. They go out for a ride and stop at the Mallard to meet their friends,” Chartier said.
“You couldn’t get a better crowd,” she said.
Chartier says she has been told by many a realtors that her father’s $18,000 investment could make her a millionaire if she were to sell the Mallard and its vibrant waterfront.
“So what! I’d be a millionaire, but I wouldn’t be happy because I wouldn’t live at the Mallard,” she said.