Wednesday 13 March 2024

Heidi Zimmer: When Nothing is Certain, Anything is Possible

Posted by at 6:34 PM

Heidi Zimmer: When Nothing is Certain, Anything is Possible

Heidi Zimmer thought she was going to be a City Planner when she was working for the City of Minnetonka. After working with numerous developers, she leaned into her curiosity of the commercial real estate development world. As much as she loved government work, it was the creative side that was calling her. She took the real estate leap, and never looked back. Her first job in the real estate world was in Chicago, working for iconic developer, Charlie Shaw.

“My heart was always in affordable housing, so that was an opportunity to pair my love for urban planning and mission of helping provide safe, affordable, healthy spaces for people in the world,” Zimmer said.

After a move back to the Twin Cities and working for developers Ron Clark Construction and Collen Carey, she made another leap into the non-profit world working for Minneapolis-based, Artspace, a leading developer of arts facilities – creating, owning, and operating affordable spaces for artists and small businesses.

“Artspace really married all my passions. It was affordable housing, development, also helping revitalize and stabilize communities. Even places like New York City or Washington D.C. I was able to help retain artists who were leaving because they were losing all that affordability,” Zimmer said.

In 2018, Zimmer’s passion continued to evolve as she had an idea to create spaces, not just for artists, but also for those seeking healing and movement. The idea rippled to integrate health and wellness and mind-body connection with arts and nature. She didn’t know where the idea would go but coincidentally, a James Beard nominated restaurant nestled next to Lake Superior on 114 acres of land in Bayfield, Wisconsin, was closing…and calling Heidi’s heart.

She bought the building from Mary Rice (entrepreneur and philanthropist), who then gave her a grant to hire employees to see if the business could be run as a retreat-concept. And with that, Wild Rice Retreat was born.

“If you have a great idea, find women or other folks that believe in you, and want to get behind you…that is how you start, you just take that first step,” Zimmer said.

In February 2020, Heidi parted ways with Artspace to focus on her new project. With development and expansion plans for Wild Rice Retreat in the works, little did she know that the Covid-19 Pandemic was looming, and the world was ultimately going to collapse.

“I remember at the time, I saw this phrase that said, when nothing is certain, anything is possible. That hangs in my office to this day because Covid was a huge time of uncertainty. I could’ve just gone into fear and shut down or I, instead, leaned into faith that it was all going to work out,” Zimmer said.

Late March of 2020, construction financing closed. The construction industry was considered ‘essential’ so the project could go on.

“The entire project, in the first phase, consisted of 31 lodging units, a sauna house, a classroom building, and all the development of the grounds in the infrastructure was built during the pandemic. We opened our doors in May of 2021,” Heidi said.

Wild Rice Retreat is a destination that offers respite for groups, or solo travelers, looking to ground themselves in mind, body, and spirit. The Northwoods Oasis is founded on the pillars of nourishment, expression, and movement. It was even named the #3 Top Resort in the Midwest (2023).

After all the leaps Heidi has taken, they have all been progress to her empowerment.

To listen to the full interview, click here!