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April 2021

A Cool New Way To Bring In Business

By Scott Kauffman

Most Northern golf facilities are still in hibernation mode this time of year and slowly coming back to life for business. Sure, some operations are able to sneak in rounds during these early spring days when it’s nice enough to play outside, but courses are mostly quiet and eagerly awaiting Memorial Day weekend when business begins to take off with peak summer traffic.

This winter and shoulder season, however, a number of Northern courses reported unusual signs of increased business activity and strange-looking things positioned around their property. And it had nothing to do with golf.

Fittingly, it was all about some creative new apropos-looking winter amenities: igloos. For instance, StoneWater Golf Club & Venue near Cleveland was closed to golfers in frigid January, but the facility’s food-and-beverage team was still buzzing with daily dining and event business at its foursome of innovative heated, lighted and carpeted igloos.

 In fact, these new dining domes made by Gardenigloo USA have proven to be so popular, General Manager Whitney Neidus said, that StoneWater had reservations booked solid from mid-January through March. Neidus, who co-owns StoneWater with her two sisters, wasn’t sure if the course was going to make the domes available after April but they’re a permanent fixture for now.

According to Gardenigloo owner Volkan Alevok, whose Hollywood, Florida-based firm also supplied igloos to a few other courses, said interest in his product was normally non-golf enterprises like restaurants, hotels and breweries/cafes. But once the coronavirus pandemic set in, more courses began expressing interest and ordering his igloos made of cold and UV-tolerant polyvinyl chloride or PVC.

The price for the Gardenigloo that comfortably seats eight people is $1,449, added Alevok, a native of Turkey whose first year in America was spent living in South Dakota, where he was first exposed to an igloo-inspiring wintry climate. After moving to warmer Florida and earning his undergraduate degree there at Eckerd College in St. Petersburg, Alevok came up with his Garden igloo idea in 2013 and sourced his igloos out of Berlin, Germany, for the first three years.

In 2016 the company opened its current Florida office north of Miami, where Alevok makes his second home, and business has been growing ever since for his easy-to-assemble and disassemble product.
“We are in high demand,” Alevok added. “And we use air shipments which increase the total price. The demand will be always there as long as business owners want to utilize their backyards or rooftops during cold months.”

Now you can add golf courses to the portable igloo landscape. At StoneWater, Neidus started using the domes in November and has them positioned on an outdoor deck previously used as event space. The wintry setting is adjacent to the enclosed heated patio space used by the club’s Rustic Grill restaurant that Neidus’s younger sister, Kathryn Neidus, oversees as executive chef.

Lunch and dinner are currently being served Tuesday through Saturday at the igloos, with brunch on Sundays. Guests are able to book either a 5 p.m. or 7:30 p.m. dinner seating, which allows the staff to do a 30-minute “deep clean” in between. Whitney Neidus said Stonewater is the only course she’s aware of that has igloos and notes they were planning on doing this before the pandemic after her middle sister, Lindsey, discovered the domes a few years ago at some New York restaurants.

Neidus, who has a background in event planning, went on to say these igloos are a “really brilliant way to extend that outdoor dining experience into the colder winter months” while warmly enjoying snow flurries or fall foliage. The domes also prove to be important now because they “allow our guests to enjoy dining outside in an experiential, socially distanced environment.

“They’re awesome,” Neidus added. “And I honestly don’t know what they cost because (Kathryn) handled everything but what I can tell you is they are worth the investment.”

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