By Sarah Jackson
Special to Sierra News Online
BASS LAKE — The Pines Resort hosted an Anniversary Party Wednesday night to celebrate nine years in business — and to say thanks to their employees.
Owners Kyu Sun Choe and Sun Wah Choe have a history of hard work and humble beginnings, which gives them a real appreciation for their employees.
At the Wednesday night party, their son, Mark Choe, who manages operations, told their story of immigrating to the United States from Korea and working in factory and janitorial jobs.
After settling into life in a new country, the Choe family saved and borrowed a small amount from family to open Sun’s Oriental Gifts in Minnesota.
The gift shop eventually evolved into a rock and roll merchandise store, which was perfect placement and timing in the early 1980’s in downtown Minneapolis.
Several years and business ventures later, the Choes wanted to live in a beautiful area and be closer to Sun’s family.
Kyu Sun loves National Parks and found this community to be perfectly situated near several, her son Mark explained.
So they moved to Oakhurst and purchased the Days Inn hotel, where they learned about the local community — and tourism.
Ready to retire and stay in the mountain community, the Choes then learned of another opportunity: The Pines Resort.
“It was an amazing opportunity, so they literally put their life savings into it,” Mark said.
“We were just staying alive the first three to four years, the revenue from the summer had to stretch through the winter,” he added. “But they renovated and worked hard on it and now we’ve had double digit revenue increases the last couple of years.”
Mark Choe went on to describe how the property continues to be a popular wedding venue, with three weddings booked every week from now until November.
“We’ve had a record summer – occupancy, the restaurant, revenue – across the board,” Mark said. “We want them (our employees) to know we appreciate their work.”
The resort’s cabana was covered with white tents, lights and gold balloons.
Employees brought potluck dishes and the resort provided a large buffet of food and drinks.
Kyu Sun, Sun Wah and Mark Choe hosted the event, thanking employees and making sure the evening was a success.
From all appearances, the Choes have a deep appreciation for The Pines’ employees, an appreciation rooted in their own humble, hardworking history.
Laura Darling, The Pines Resort sales manager for tour buses and international travelers, has worked at The Pines Resort for 12 years.
“My husband was ill and recently passed,” she said. “They [the Choe family] have been so incredibly flexible and understanding. They really do care about their employees and customers’ experiences.”
Connie Beauregard has been the human resources director for 7 years, and says working at The Pines Resort has been a great opportunity for her.
“This (appreciation event) isn’t for show,” Beauregard said. “It’s truly how they feel! I’ll never forget, one day he (owner Kyu Sun Choe) was telling me how he felt about employees. He showed me his hand and said, ‘all of our employees are a part of this family, just like my fingers are a part of my hand. If I lose a finger, I feel the pain.’ They really are wonderful to work for.”