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The Vibrant Village of Ranier

Posted by Megan Kellin on
The Vibrant Village of Ranier


How new perspective creates major impact 


Big sky, fresh air, volatile weather, rocks older than the Grand Canyon, humbling beauty, deep lay lines, navigational hazards, boundary waters, savage, authentic people, yes this is a place where you know where you stand. This is a place where you know who your neighbors are, and it’s guaranteed they have the grit to back up the beauty. It might be easy to say that it once was and still is a millionaire's playground, but it could actually be dictated by a regional personality profile that encompasses a lot of eccentric people of all-levels who know, to their very core, it's all about the lake and the land of opportunity.

We're talking about Rainy Lake and the quaint village of Ranier, MN, pop: 599. Once a fur trade hub through the turn of the 20th century, Ranier has left a much deeper groove for the reputation of being a speakeasy hotbed through the prohibition era. Bootlegging greats like Chicago mobster Bugs Moran, and his counterpart Al Capone were known to stroll the sleepy streets of Rainer. Rainer’s proximity to the Canadian whiskey supply, connected by the infamous Cantilever Bridge, started the pages for a long, rich, story of Rainer’s connection to the liquid libations.

The prohibition era has given way to a very different, but another scarce resource; fresh air. Rainer sits nestled into the rocky shorelines of Rainy Lake and is the Gateway to Voyageurs National Park. Voyageurs National Park is home to over 100,000 acres of pristine watershed and is Minnesota’s only National Park. It's an epicenter for world class fishing, camping, star gazing, and all-around room to roam. To some, this is a commodity that is often taken for granted. To many, it is covenanted in the same way Spirits were in the 1920s. 

There’s a certain respect and deep appreciation for the lasting legacy of the area formed at the turn of the century. From fur-trading to gold mining and bootlegging, this area has always been the true leaders in enterprising and this community of trail blazers is setting the precedent yet again. You see, in this story, you don’t necessarily need to blaze a new trail, but rather, re-invent it. It is said, that the main role in leadership is finding the opportunity in change. This sentiment could not ring more clear than what you see happening in the town of Ranier.

I had the opportunity to sit down with the folks of Ranier and get a better understanding of what it takes to build community. What I learned is that with the appropriate perspective and pliancy, change is an equivalent to opportunity. They are synonymous. I learned that this is how a vibrant small town can cultivate an ecosystem of good people, doing good things. The common theme in my conversations with the locals is that they have the ability to think creatively, form new habits, reframe perspective, and be able to hear the winds of change whisper. The vital catalyst for change, is recognizing that change is in-fact necessary. These folks are embracing it. We’re here to celebrate it. 

Cantilever is a business opened amidst Covid but thrives in the savage, dynamic world that we live in today. This business is the boilerplate for distilling your own opportunity. Cantilever Distilling is symbolic in its own namesake: It bridges the old to the new, providing the conduit for commodities of which they are always in pursuit of.

If you think about it, not a whole lot has changed in the last 100 years, except for the commodity of course. And perhaps the perspective. And that makes all the difference. Once the epicenter of smuggling spirits and then some, none of this could have been possible without the historic Cantilever Bridge, the conduit that connected Canada to the United States. The speakeasies and the gin joints needed a steady supply to stay in business, and they can neither confirm or deny that the fine citizens of Ranier were involved. Unbeknownst to the border patrol (often overlooked by residents), the Cantilever Bridge was the pipeline to liquid libations that would entertain not only the Northwoods but consistently reach as far as Chicago and beyond.  

As they look to the past to inspire the future, Cantilever brings back that history, the passion, and the excitement of a bygone era to offer you amazing distilled spirits that are all hand-distilled from scratch using the finest Minnesota grains and water from the Canadian Shield. Supporting the local community is at their core. They take great care in sourcing with local farmers first to provide the finest Minnesota Proud ingredients, and it is even better when it makes a superior product that will be produced and aged in the Northwoods. 

People are their greatest asset and supporting their hometown is key. They are proud to say that this project that was driven by personal passions by a small group of people provides jobs, drives tourism, and gives everybody more of a reason to enjoy historical Ranier! The distillery is built at the former site of the world-renown headquarters of Woody’s Fairly Reliable Guide Service, a favorite to anglers around the world. As Woody would say, “A bad day fishing always beats a good day working.”

With a nod to history (and to Woody), Cantilever produces a fun, lifestyle-driven spirit line called Woody’s Fairly Reliable. These products are handmade with our love of life on the lake, sharing great times, and building unforgettable memories. It is nice to know that the products you enjoy come from a place that you can always visit, but it is even better if you can take something home to share with family and friends. Steps from the shore of Rainy Lake you can find Cantilever and proud community that stands behind it, knowing this is just the beginning. 


Read more of our stories in Issue 18 of Lake and Company


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