The Story of Woodloch: “Passing the Torch”
Harry and Mary Kiesendahl, against all odds, planted the roots for a truly special resort over the course of 20 years. After working tirelessly for 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, they were ready for some relaxation time themselves. Eager to continue his parents legacy, John purchased the resort in 1981 and took the helm of the ship…
John Kiesendahl had long been preparing for this day.
After graduating from Cornell University, perhaps the best Hospitality School in the country, and serving in the United States Navy, he had all the knowledge and discipline he’d need to guide Woodloch. With experience at every single job at the property, from fetching drinking water as a child to eventually running the kitchen, he was more than familiar with the property and people that collectively made Woodloch.
Yet, even with decades of proper grooming, there is such a thing as opening night jitters.
“I still remember getting butterflies,” says John. “Mom and Dad were still very much involved in the business, greeting guests and whatnot. But responsibility was now on my shoulders.” To ease the tension back in the early days, John purchased a pair of funny pants with holly berries on them, just in time for the holidays. “Not only did the funny pants take the pressure off (sort of like golfing), the guests enjoyed them and were a great ice breaker.” And thus, the tradition of funny pants was born.
As word had spread across Long Island of a special resort nestled in the Poconos, John was faced with one of his first major challenges as owner: satisfying demand! Not only was there a need for more guest rooms, but also a clear need for Woodloch to upgrade their facilities so “traditional” was harmonious with
This was addressed with the construction of the Springbrook and Mountain Laurel units, starting in 1981. Not only were dozens of beautiful modern hotel rooms available for use, but a brand new sports complex opened alongside it. The outdoor pool was a wonderful alternative to our lakefront, and guests could
stay toasty warm all winter long with our indoor pool and hot tubs. Plus, with racquetball courts and an exercise room, Woodloch had become a true four season paradise.
Around the same time, it became quite obvious that unlike the early days of the 12 room boarding house, and despite his best efforts, JK couldn’t be everywhere across the resort at once. In the tradition of great hospitality, middle managers called department heads were hired to instill the spirit of the resort to new employees. “Our first department heads were carefully selected,” says John. “They absolutely had to share the passion of bringing joy to people while maintaining the standards that my dad had established for the resort.”
Of course, John was never alone in taking on new challenges in the business. The watchful eye of Uncle Harry and the warmth of Mary’s heart were never too far away from Woodloch. John’s younger brother Steve earned a business degree with night courses, and eventually oversaw Front Desk and Sales operations. Slowly but steadily, the third generation started helping out as they grew. The Woodloch tradition of the entire family chipping in efforts proudly continued.
The transition of generations came to the forefront as the resort celebrated its 25th Silver Anniversary in 1983. Three generations of Woodloch- the past, present, and future- congregated with guests new and returning to celebrate 25 years of family, friends and fun. Perhaps Uncle Harry said it best- “We were very gratified with the way it’s all unfolded- what could be better? We have thousands of friends – true friends – and we built something worthwhile.”
Later on that decade, market study indicators had shown clear demand from guests and similar customers for a golf course. With this knowledge, Woodloch took the plunge and it became our most ambitious and expensive undertaking ever.
Woodloch Springs, a living and golfing community, broke ground in 1988. Woodloch enlisted the help of William “Rocky” Roquemore, an international golf course designer, to make the dream a reality. Over 400 acres of land was sculpted into a future award-winning golf course. Over 400 vacation rentals sprung up alongside the landscape- many of the first owners were longtime guests, more than eager to make Woodloch their lifestyle! Woodloch Springs opened its doors in 1992, and has only become more and more beautiful over the years.
With new facilities, guest accommodations and incredible activities being added at what seemed to be an annual rate, in the blink of an eye, Woodloch was ready to celebrate its 40th Anniversary. It was also at this time that Woodloch was recognized by the state of Pennsylvania as one of “The Best Companies to Work” in the state. A year filled with celebrations hit the ground running right into 1999, as Woodloch further spent the months gearing up for an incredible millennium celebration, ushering in the year 2000 with our highest guest counts ever…