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New Life in a Bigfork Classic

New owners at the Marina Cay have focused on weddings and banquets to increase business and promote public access at the resort

BIGFORK — Before Robert Carette spoke about anything that he and his wife Beth have accomplished as owners of the Marina Cay Resort for the last two years, he wanted to make something clear: This resort, with its pool, several bars and restaurants, condos, and all sorts of water-activity options, is open to the public.

“People have more access,” the energetic Carette said late last week in a breath of downtime during a massive guest changeover in mid-afternoon. “It’s open to the public and it’s open year-round.”

The Marina Cay is a stalwart business in the Bigfork Village. Sitting on a hillside overlooking the bay, the resort and conference center has served as a popular vacation destination and was turned into a private resort in the early 2000s before the recession hit.

By the time the housing market had tanked and the recession ruled, the Marina Cay had gone back to being a public entity. Carette, who previously worked as a banker in Cut Bank while Beth taught for decades, believes the key for future success lies in bringing people back to the banks of the bay again.

And that focus has led to more weddings, banquets, conferences, and other large gatherings in the last two years, Carette said. For example, when the couple took ownership in 2015, they rented out their facilities and amenities for four Christmas and holiday parties.

A year later, in 2016, there were 14.

“It’s been a really good expansion,” Carette said.

The Marina Cay has an event coordinator to help all processes run smoothly, with a couple of wedding venues available. In the fall, the condo homeowners’ association allows the resort to hold weddings on the lawn by the water, which has extended the wedding season, Carette said.

Another focus in the Carettes’ plans for revitalizing the Marina Cay is perfecting the weekend tradition of Sunday brunch. Each weekend, the Marina Cay serves a full brunch in its dining room, complete with prime rib and all the fixings, Carette said.

It’s been catching on, he noted, as a good brunch is wont to do.

“That’s something that’s really grown big,” Carette said.

They also changed the upstairs bar space from a cigar bar to a lounge area with billiards, drinks, and poolside access. That bar is open September through May, Carette said.

The most popular bar on the property, at least during summer, is the tiki bar near the docks. As a walk-in or boat-in bar, Carette said it’s important that boaters know they’ll have somewhere to park if they show up. So the resort freed up 10 boat slips for parking.

The resort has also partnered with new vendors on the property, he said, allowing for more options while visitors vacation here. Along with all the services at the Dock on the Bay fueling station, the Marina Cay also now hosts Howe’s Fishing A Able Charters on the dock; Wild Wave Rentals, offering watercraft; and Flying Bear Aquatics, offering water-fueled jet packs and flyboards.

And starting in August, the Marina Cay will begin offering massage services in a newly remodeled facility, he said.

The new owners are also working from building to building of condos, repainting and updating as they go along. The 60 condos offer a range of sizes and styles, from a traditional hotel-style feel to those with three bedrooms.

Making reservations for rooms also got easier, Carette said, because the resort updated its website for the first time since 2012. They can host three events in a day, and Carette said he and Beth hope to build on the Marina Cay’s reputation in Bigfork and invest even more in the community.

“It’s a work in progress,” Carette said. “It’s been exciting.”

For more information on the Marina Cay Resort, visit www.marinacay.com.

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