MONTEVIDEO, Minn. — A Montevideo company's fish houses have become a popular sight in the "Land of 10,000 frozen lakes."
The Midwest is a part of the country where real estate seems to expand in the wintertime. Once it's cold enough, little cities form on frozen lakes. But these days, it's as much about fine-living as it is about fishing.
Brett Drexler's dad Jeff began building fish houses in Montevideo, 26 years ago. He started with a couple, but then demand took off like a northern at the end of a fishing line.
"No clue. No idea that it would grow to be what it is," said Brett. "A little different from the plywood box that we used to fish in, for sure."
That's because Ice Castle Fish Houses have all the amenities: Kitchens and countertops, sleeping quarters and slide-outs, creating more space.
"You've got a spot here for a TV and then you have another spot back here for a TV," said Brett, pointing out different features inside an American Freedom model.
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But make no mistake, the houses are as popular in July as they are in January.
"They are used for hunting camp. Regular camping. Ice camping. Extra sleeping at the cabin," said Brett.
The company has grown steadily over the years. They now have 160 employees and they build from scratch. The frames are put together in one plant, before they're moved to the next one.
"You start off with floor-decking and then it goes to wall building and then it goes to electrical. And then it goes to spray foam and then it goes here," said Jarrod Stewart.
Jarrod is the production manager and a jack of all trades.
"I check the fiberglass, I check the stone guard, I check the frames," said Jarrod. "When I started, we were doing two or three houses a day. And then we went all the way up to 16 houses a day."
Eighty percent of what they do is custom-made. That includes one fish house built to look like a train caboose. And customers now come from as far south as Tennessee and as far west as Montana.
"Back in the day we had pop-ups. And now we have fish houses we can take out on the ice and we can cook in them. We can sleep in them," said Jarrod.
A far cry from the fish houses grandpa used to sit in. What started as a small project in a small town, has turned into an ice castle kingdom.
"It's fun to see them. When you are driving and you just see them spotted on the lakes, it's fun to see," said Brett.
Ice Castle builds about 30 houses a week. They've made about 60 different models over the past 25-plus years and their houses are also RV-certified.
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