The sprawling Madden's on Gull Lake, with five swimming pools, 32 meeting rooms and 63 golf holes, is not your prototypical mom-and-pop resort. But it has been in the same family since the 1930s, when Tom Madden and his nephew Jack bought a golf course and clubhouse and built three cabins on the property. Over the decades Jack and his brother Jim steadily added to the property, now run by Jim's son-in-law, Brian Thuringer.
"I worked my way up the old-fashioned way and married the boss' daughter," Thuringer said.
They're still keeping it in the family. Deb (Madden) Thuringer is co-owner and director of design and purchasing; both daughter Abbey Pieper and son Ben Thuringer are vice presidents.
"We've got everybody working here except for my two grandsons," Brian Thuringer said. "My 2-year-old [grandson] has shown up, but hasn't done anything yet. My 17-month-old is going to follow in his footsteps. My children were picking up litter here when they were 5."
Pieper remembers that well. "We had to work our way up, so cigarette-butt-picking-up was my first official job," she said. But she did not go it alone. "I recruited my grandfather [Jim Madden] to take me around in a golf cart."
Spending every summer day with her grandparents and parents was "a lot better than Mom and Dad taking off at 9 and coming back at 5," she said.
Spending every summer day at a resort created other bonds. "I didn't ever really think of the people as guests. They were more summer friends than anything," Pieper said.
After a youth of building such ties, Pieper opted for a career track in medicine. But when she interned with a doctor, she realized there was only one place that would fulfill her.
And so Pieper came back into the Madden's fold for good. Just like the guy who used to cart her around, looking for cigarette butts.
"I feel a tremendous amount of responsibility knowing how hard he worked building such an amazing place," she said, "and I want to make sure all of his work was not for naught."
Bill Ward • 612-673-7643