One of the oldest sport fishing resorts in the state — Olson’s Resort in Sekiu, operated by Arlen and Donnalynn Olson — was sold with an agreement the new buyers keep it operating pretty much the way it has for almost eight decades.
The family-owned resort, nestled along the western edge of the Strait of Juan de Fuca in Clallam County opened in 1936, was put up for sale in 2004 by Arlen, the son of founder Alvin Olson, who passed away in 1970.
Since then rumors had swirled like the tide pools off the resort that dramatic change could come in this quaint small fishing town if a private investor bought it for all the wrong reasons.
That ended this past week, when the Olsons closed a sale to Mason Family Properties, a company based in Murtaugh, Idaho, that also owns an RV campground and ranch just outside of Twin Falls. It didn’t take long for Brandon and Dawn Mason to fall in love with Sekiu, and after a few visits the couple knew this was going to be their new permanent home and place of business.
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“We love to fish and hunt, and found out the resort was for sale back in February, and Sekiu sounded like a paradise for fishing,” Dawn said. “We developed a great relationship with the Olson family, and one thing led to another and we ended up buying it.”
While Arlen and Donnalynn — dubbed “grandpa and grandma” by the Mason family — might have sold off their pride and joy, don’t expect them to ride off into the sunset anytime soon.
“Both of them plan to stay around, and Arlen still comes down for his cup of coffee every morning, and he plans to be our nighttime security officer,” Dawn said. “We need him around to help us on this new venture, and he plans to be here until the day he dies.”
Outside of some immediate upgrades, the Mason family plans to keep operating the resort as a fishing destination.
“At first Arlen and his family were skeptical about selling to us, but we’re going to keep it open to the public,” Brandon said. “I have a five- to seven-year plan that will turn this place around. It was a huge investment on our part, but a good purchase, and we came to great terms on a price that was fair to all of us.”
The terms of the deal were not revealed, but the list price when it went up for sale in 2004 was about $3.8 million.
Plans for improvements include providing gas and propane; adding some powerful 50-amp RV spots with sewer and electrical hookups on the waterfront; and fixing up the moorage and dock facility. Sometime next year, the Masons also plan to renovate the motel and cabins. Future plans revolve around other outdoor actvities like kayaking and bird- and storm-watching.
The resort sits on 20 acres of land that has a 14-unit motel, dozens of RV spaces, acres of campsites, a handful of cabins and houses, a huge marina with numerous docks and transient moorage, and a well-stocked store and office.
Perhaps one of the most unique features of the resort is its own 1,000-foot breakwater, constructed many years ago by the Olson family, which would cost millions of dollars to build these days.
A salmon cannery was established at Sekiu in the late 1800s, and then it became a booming logging town during the early 1900s. Salmon fishing grew in popularity before World War II, and Sekiu was lined with more than a dozen resorts along the narrow two-lane dirt road leading into town.
Anglers were lured to Sekiu in search of giant-sized king salmon exceeding 70 pounds. These rare specimens migrated along the shores to the famous gene pools of the Olympic Peninsula’s Elwha River, as well as other nearby free-flowing rivers and streams. Sekiu boasts the long-standing saltwater state-record king salmon of 70.50 pounds, caught off Pillar Point by Chet Gausta on Sept. 6, 1964.
The name Sekiu — a Clallam Indian word for “calm water” — is one of the few places where small-boat anglers are protected from winds that often blow through the vast open waters of the Strait.
“I said to my wife that it is every little boy’s dream to own a fishing resort,” Brandon said with a laugh, “and she corrected me by saying, ‘No, it is every little girl’s dream.’ ”