Photo by Rhonda Silence
Last May, the "paddle was passed" when Ginnie Storlie sold Sawtooth Outfitters in Tofte to Jeffrey Lynch and Sarah Kabot. The new owners made it through the summer of kayaks and bikes and are switching gears to serve skiing customers.

Sawtooth Outfitters switching gears

By Rhonda Silence
Last spring, when things were warm and green, instead of cold and brown, there was a passing of the paddle at the Sawtooth Outfitters in Tofte. The outfitters, which had been built by Ginny and Derald Storlie in 1987, was purchased by Jeffrey Lynch and Sarah Kabot in May. The Cook County Star recently checked in with the outfitters, to see if they are ready for snow.
They assure us they are. The new owners easily switched gears from kayaks and bicycles to skis and snowshoes. Jeff said Sawtooth Outfitters is now a full-service Nordic Center.
They had a lot of help during the transition from Ginny Storlie. Ginny explained that she thought long and hard before selling the business after Derald's death in November 2000. It was hard for her to think of leaving the unique building that she and Derald built, patterned after an old fishhouse in Trondheim, Norway. It was hard to imagine another couple with the background and personalities to meet the needs of Sawtooth Outfitters clients.
Although she knew it was really a two-person operation, Ginny postponed listing the building for sale for a year and a half, trying to decide what to do. She wanted to find just the right couple to take over the business. She had a few unsolicited offers and said she thought to herself, "Oh, no, you'd never work out."
And then Jeffrey and Sarah stopped by. They were looking for a change from their life in the Twin Cities. And their backgrounds were just about custom-made for the life of a North Shore outfitter.
Their warm and friendly attitudes, which endeared them to Ginny has also helped them quickly fit into the Tofte community. But just as important, they have extensive experience in the services they offer.
Sarah happily recalls childhood camping trips with Girl Scouts. Those early trips continued and became more extended Boundary Water expeditions-most recently, a paddle from Baker Lake to Sawbill, which included a 230 rod portage.
She even found jobs that kept her involved in outdoor activities, first at New Moon in Hayward, Wisconsin and then at Gear West, a well-known Twin Cities supplier of all things outdoor. "I learned a lot about skis there!" she said with a grin.
Jeff was also a BWCA paddler, making many trips from Ely and the Gunflint Trail. He traveled to the North Shore on family trips in the 70's and then spent time at a friend's cabin in Tofte on college Spring Breaks.
Jeff too, worked at Gear West and for similar businesses during and after college. He explained that with his hobbies of pro-cycling and ski racing, it was a good fit. "Working in those industries has been a big part of my life-it helped me afford the equipment!"
Bicycling was important enough to Jeff and Sarah that they added bicycle rental, repair and sales to Sawtooth Outfitter's canoes, kayaks and gift shop offerings. "We can't wait until the Gitchi-Gami Bicycle Trail comes through," said Jeff.
For snow season, they have expanded Sawtooth Outfitter's selection of winter gear, with ski rental, sales and tech service for both Alpine and Cross-Country. They offer free Waxing Clinics and stock a wide selection of Fisher, Swix, and Solomon skis, rollerskis, and Nordic skates.
They are looking forward to the upcoming North Shore Mountain Challenge on Saturday, February 1, 2003, although they will be too busy to race. The event will start at Superior National at Lutsen Golf Course with a 45-kilometer race, a 20-kilometer race and a 5-kilometer ski race for kids. "That will be great," said Jeff, who will be in charge of grooming the Sugar Bush trail network for the Challenge. "People don't realize how good the Cross-Country skis are in this area."
Novice skiers are encouraged to stop by the outfitters, too. "If people want to learn to ski, we can teach Skate and Classic," said Jeff.
What does Ginny think of all the changes? Once again, she's their biggest fan. "It's exciting to see the business grow," she said.
She too, has switched gears-moving from the apartment at Sawtooth Outfitters to a little house in Lutsen. She opened a little garden shop last spring and plans to do it again in 2003. But that's a different story-Ginny prefers the spotlight to be on her friends, Jeff and Sarah. She smiles fondly as she observes that the new owners of Sawtooth Outfitters are "just right."

 

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