Faces in the Crowd: Shane Suiter

January 6, 2020

Cindy and Shane Suiter.
Shane and Cindy Suiter are the new owners of Cadillac Woods Campground.
Shane and Cindy with daughter Addison.
Cadillac Woods Campground features a pool, putt golf, and 19 acres of trails.

In March of 2019, Shane and Cindy Suiter bought a campground. They’d been looking at campgrounds in North Carolina, Texas, and Ohio, but ultimately chose northern Michigan.

On March 4th, they closed on their purchase of the Cadillac Woods Campground on M-115, and on March 5th they got right to work with the renovations.

After a successful first year, the couple is looking forward to an even better 2020 camping season.

And the Suiter team is continuing to make themselves right at home.

Shane and Cindy, originally from East Tennessee and Kansas, respectively, made the move to Michigan without knowing anyone in the area. A very courageous move, indeed. However, according to Shane, Cindy was the courageous one, while he was simply the crazy one.

Along with running the campground, Shane has also become involved with teaching and coaching at Marion High School. He coached the Marion Middle School football team to an undefeated record this past fall, and his JV girls’ basketball squad is currently 3-0. Shane also serves as a chaplain in the Michigan National Guard, after completing his active duty service in the Army in 2018.

We caught up with Shane recently to learn more about his story. We learned that Shane – and his wife, Cindy – are much more than just faces in the crowd.

Marion Press: Where are you from originally?

Shane: I’m originally from East Tennessee. I joined the Army really late, and I did eight years in the Army. My last duty station – I left active duty in 2018 – was Ft. Riley, Kansas. That’s where I met my wife, Cindy. She lived her whole life in one town, carried mail there for 21 years. It’s been a whirlwind. We met; dated quick. I think it was like our third or fourth date, I said something about always wanting to own a campground. Her eyes lit up, and she said, “What!?”

Long story short, we looked all over the place. We looked at one in North Carolina; looked at one on the Texas/Oklahoma line; looked at one in southern Ohio. And this one just had the most potential. Best area; kind of run down. I tell people that we don’t have a lot of money, but I’m a hard worker. So it was a good deal for us to get one that was kind of run down, that we could fix up.

So that’s what we’ve done. People would hear my story, and they’d say, “Oh, my gosh, that’s so cool what you guys are doing, you’re so courageous!” And I’d just laugh and say, “I’m not courageous; I’m crazy!” Cindy’s the courageous one. We’d just been married a short time, and she completely quit her job of 21 years. Complete caution to the wind; she said, “Let’s do it.”

So here we are, we closed on it on March 4th, and then I gutted the bathroom in the house we live in on March 5th. We worked probably 12-13 hour days from March 5th until Memorial Day, just to get it ready, and completely turned around.

MP: What are some of your first impressions of the area?
Shane: So I’ve lived in 14 different states. I’m Appalachia born and bred. I love Appalachia; I love the mountains. But I told Cindy today, how much I love it here. I think it’s my third favorite place I’ve ever lived. It reminds me a lot of northern Arkansas: very rural roads, country. Everybody’s from here. I love it. I’m still in the Michigan National Guard, and my unit’s down in Ypsillanti, and when I hit the traffic going south, I just hate it. I hate it. I love it up here; I love the feel; I love the pace of life. We have 30 acres out here, and I love that. I’ve been outside all day, cutting and splitting wood and I love it.

MP: Tell us about the campground.
Shane: We’ve tried to redo everything. We’re small; I tell people we’re a small, quirky, old campground. If you like old-fashioned camping where there’s still trees everywhere. We’ve got 19 acres of trails, about a mile and a half of trails. We’ve got a little putt-putt course that me and my dad rebuilt. We’ve got a pool. 27 RV sites. Six little cabins, and ten tent sites. By campground standards, we’re really really small. We’ve got a little store; we’ve completely remodeled a little studio apartment above our store, and that’s available for rent.

MP: You’ve also been keeping busy with teaching and coaching, tell us a little bit about that.
Shane: Yeah, if I could go back and do my life all over again, I’d teach high school history and coach. One of my stepdaughters was supposed to go to Marion, so I just went up there to check the school out. I ended up meeting [principal] Danyel Prielipp and Stacy Sutten, and just got to talking. I was just needing something a little extra for when we close the campground down. And they needed a middle school football coach, so that worked out awesome. And now I’m coaching the JV girls’ basketball team. And I try to be up there at the school at least two or three days a week in addition to practice. Just being involved has been really fun. I was talking to Greg Salisbury this week about how open everybody has been to me, an outsider. I’ve been just super pleased with that; just meeting people and getting involved.

MP: How is your JV Girls season going?
Shane: We’re 3-0, and we play again this Friday.

MP: Undefeated, that’s fantastic.
Shane: So we were undefeated in football – our middle school boys went undefeated – and Chris McCrimmon and I have this running joke that I’m an amazing coach! But that has way more to do with talent and Chris McCrimmon than it has to do with me. Chris was just a godsend. Talk about humility; I love him to death. We had a great season; we had a lot of fun. And he taught me so much, it was really cool.

MP: Who have been your role models? Any advice or words of wisdom that have helped you along the way?
Shane: It’d have to be my dad, Tom. My Dad has always been steady and constant, his love for me has never changed. What’s the old phrase? ‘You know who your real friends are when you go through the really deep stuff in life, and they stick with you.’ I’ve got one friend, Dave Raines, who I met in the Army. More loyal to me than anyone I’ve met in my life, other than Cindy. Dave’s closer than a brother. Everyone should have at least one friend like that in their lives. I learned my work ethic from my dad. He’s incredibly smart, wise, and gentle – kind of the opposite of me!

MP: What do you enjoy the most about life here in northern Michigan?
Shane: I just absolutely, words cannot describe how much I love the freedom of being my own boss; the freedom of running your own business. We’ll work 14 hour days in the summer. Like Cindy said the other day: “Sometimes we’ll work seven days a week, but it’s not even remotely the same as when you work even 40 hours for somebody else.”
Like today, I’ve worked my tail off for the last two or three days; I’ve split so much wood with an eight pound maul that it’s not even funny. But I love it. I just love having the freedom to do what I want to do.

This would not be possible without Cindy. There’s no way I would’ve ever done this by myself. Who knows where I’d be without her? She came into my life during a time period when I was pretty lost. I would’ve never moved to northern Michigan by myself and bought a campground. She’s been incredibly instrumental; she’s the hardest working woman I’ve ever met – I’ve never met anyone who could outwork me, but she’s pretty close!

MP: Sounds like you two make quite the team!
Shane: Absolutely. She says that every two or three days. She was setting up logs last night, and I was just swinging the maul, and she was setting them up. I think we went through a tree and a half yesterday: cut, split, and put away. We really are a great team; she’s a great, great partner. And what I want people to know is how courageous she is. I’m just crazy – I’ll do anything; security is not one of my life’s values. But she was incredibly secure: 21 years as a mail carrier in Salina, Kansas; owned her own home. For her to say, “You know what, I’ve fallen in love with this crazy man, and we’re going to do this crazy thing…” For her to move all the way up here, it’s very courageous on her part. She’s such a courageous, loving, trusting woman. I couldn’t do it without her, no way.

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