By Victor Skinner
ROTHBURY – Double JJ Resort is going through changes, and the changes have been good.
“It’s an exciting time here. As a business it started 79 years ago,” said Curtis Burdette, general manager.
“We’re a year away from our 80th birthday.”
Over the last eight decades, Double JJ has changed ownership several times, but the resort’s most recent purchase came with a renewed commitment to re-engage with the community, and refocus on its local roots.
Burdette and other staffers hired over the last year are mostly locals, he said, and they’re working to connect with hyper-local media like Muskegon’s 100.9 FM to court customers close to home. They’re counting on West Michigan residents to lead the ranch’s revival, and Burdette said the result has been encouraging.
Last winter and this spring, the ranch held a community swim at its Gold Rush Indoor Waterpark for a discounted $10 per person rate, a steep discount from the regular $25 tickets, and thousands poured in to take advantage. The resort also held a special Santa meet and greet in December 2015 and a Civil Service Fair held this past April to honor local public servants, and improved infrastructure in anticipation of a stellar summer season.
“We have an amazing water park, and horses and golf facilities here,” Burdette said. “We want to make sure we’re encouraging people in the community to come in.”
“We’re reaching out to local business, hosting community nights,” he added. “Our marketing strategy has shifted to invest in more grassroots community based non-commercial media sources.” The marketing highlights the resort’s mainstays, including horseback riding, and the Arthur Hills-designed Thoroughbred Golf Club, Sundance Saloon & Steakhouse and the Back Forty family fun.
What initially began as a private camp for young girls called “Cedar Shores” in 1930, eventually became known as Jack and Jill Ranch in 1937 and catered to boys and girls from local congregations. For about 40 years Jack and Jill Ranch steadily expanded from 80 acres of farmland to what’s now a 1,200 acre full-service resort. Jack and Jill Ranch became Double JJ Ranch Resort in the 1970s, and the name was later shortened to Double JJ Resort in 2009.
After changing hands several times, new owners – one of which is from Whitehall – purchased the resort about three years ago and set their sights on refurbishing the facility and reconnecting with local residents, Burdette said.
“A lot of the infrastructure issues from the past have been resolved in the last couple years,” he said.
“New roofs, a waterpark renovation. We continue to touch things up, updating pumps and behind the scenes stuff people don’t necessarily see.” The renovations extended to the resort’s approach to advertising and marketing, as well, which was trained mostly on large markets in the past.
“It’s to get us closer to the people who are about the community,” Burdette said. “We want to show we’re investing in the community by putting our marketing dollars in the community.” Aside from drawing in local families, “we want to let local businesses know we have Wonderful facilities for banquets and corporate events from an intimate gathering with a dozen guests to major conferences with hundreds of participants”, he said.
Double JJ Resort launched the new localized focus over the winter – during it’s off-season – by offering the discounted waterpark tickets on Sundays, which went from the resort’s slowest day of the week to a filled-to capacity day time event.
The summer opens up a whole host of other fun activities, from the outdoor water park, to the golf course, to hay rides and horseback riding, Burdette said, as well as a wide range of lodging options for all types of guests.
Double JJ offers Thoroughbred suites next to the golf course with a Jacuzzi tub, full kitchen and one to four bedrooms on the more luxurious end, to Loft Hotel economy options, Back Forty rustic family cabins, and recreational vehicle sites for the budget conscious, Burdette said.
Numerous restaurants are also on site to refuel after a day of water activities, cattle drives, roping classes, painting and other fun, he said.
“There’s all types of activities for any age, from the water park for young kids to crafts and other adult-focused activities,” Burdette said.
“I think what’s exciting right now is we’re very focused on providing a consistent guest experience and creating that experience that when people come … they can always expect to have a good time,” he said. “I think we’re continuing to evolve with the times, and we’re finding new ways to succeed.”