Sportsman’s Lodge welcomes new owners
Kudelskis aim for high quality customer experience, service
ENNIS—For Bob and France Kudelski, the story goes from hockey to hotels, as France puts it.
The pair met in 1989 when Bob was playing professionally for the Los Angeles Kings. The next seven years would include a 1991 wedding and two team moves, to the Ottawa Senators and the Florida Panthers. When Bob retired in 1996, they made an abrupt change, purchasing a guest ranch in Wyoming.
“It was right near the east gate of Yellowstone National Park,” says Bob, “with horses and cabins and a guest ranch. We’d never owned horses before, or a restaurant, but it was great.
“We did breakfast rides, lunch rides, dinner rides, all of it,” says France, a Montreal native. “It was pretty much pre-Internet too. A company called us and said that for $50 they could put us online. And we were the only one for about a year before people caught on. We had so many bookings.”
Since then, the Kudelskis have also owned a guest lodge in the San Juan mountains of Colorado. In each place they’ve lived, they search for businesses where they see potential and communities they enjoy. They brought their Colorado lodge to the number one spot on TripAdvisor, a website that allows guests to give feedback and ratings on their experiences.
But even before they moved to Colorado, they’d been looking in Montana.
“We’ve been coming here for 25 years and rented a house here when our daughter was little,” says France. “Then this summer we were camping, and Bob saw that it was on the market. We went under contract pretty quickly.”
It was the fulfillment of a longtime goal of theirs—to relocate to a place that captured their imaginations decades ago. They officially became the proprietors of the Sportsman’s Lodge on February 7.
“We looked all over Montana hoping something would come up,” says Bob. “And it did. We got lucky. We’re excited to be here; we always wanted to find a property in Montana.”
The Kudelskis intend to keep the Sportsman’s Lodge largely unchanged but will do some remodeling to many of the guest rooms and redecorating of the lobby and dining room. They’ll also do some additions to the restaurant’s menu, which has been in the works for the past three weeks. They plan to be finished and ready open fully my May 1 and the beginning of the summer rush.
“We’ve got a lot of respect for the history of this place,” says Bob. “It’s been here for almost 80 years. So, right now the attention should be on customer service and having a good experience while you’re here. That’s what we’re really keen on.”
Along with their daughter, Bob and France live on-site at the lodge and have personally overseen all of the remodel efforts and stylistic tweaks. They plan to hire a few more employees but will keep the entire staff that was employed when they first bought the lodge. They’ve already joined the chamber of commerce and have received a warm welcome from the community.
“We want to be a part of the community here,” says France. “We frequent all the businesses around town, and we’re not here to be better than anyone else. We’re just here to provide A-plus service.”
With March already halfway over, the busy season is fast approaching. But the Kudelskis are ready for it, and are happy to finally be in a place they’ve loved for 25 years.
“We’ve had people come to us and tell them how happy they are that we’re here,” says Bob. “It’s been great. We want to be ready for the summer when things get crazy, but the number one thing is customer service. It’s all about attention to detail and the experience.”
The Sportsman’s Lodge is currently partially open with some rooms closed for renovations. The bar and casino are operating as usual, while the dining room will open for lunch and dinner service in the coming weeks.