The Audio Files

As somewhat of an audiophile, I find that I instantly gravitate toward people who like music. It doesn’t matter if you and I don’t happen to like the same music – any passion one might have for any kind of riff, lyric, or beat is what means the most to me. So, it may not come as any kind of surprise to know that when I first found out that Door County was going to be the home of a new radio station – in Ephraim, no less – I was extremely excited, but skeptical.

I needn’t have worried. Mike and Carrie Mesic, owners of Door County’s FM 106.9 The Lodge, have succeeded in bringing a healthy dose of originality, spunk, and an unabashed love of rock music to our Door County airwaves. “We’re here because we love music, and because we know there’s no better place on Earth than Door County,” laughs Mike Mesic. In talking with them, I realize that this simple principle is what has guided this small, dynamic radio station – from the initial process of securing the bandwidth down to the science of selecting songs to play over the airwaves. The story of The Lodge is one that was literally years in the making, and one that proves that if you want something badly enough, it will indeed happen.

Mike recalls being interested in radio, and music, from an early age. “I was that kid at family gatherings who always hooked up my walkie-talkie to the record player so the music could filter throughout the entire house,” he laughs. He went on years later to study Broadcast Management at Arizona State University. After graduation, he found a full-time radio station job in Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan. Having family in Michigan, Mike decided to make the transition to the Midwest. It was in Sault Ste. Marie that he met Carrie, who, at the time, worked at the credit union where Mike banked. Mike tried initially to impress her with his credentials, but it didn’t work.

“She didn’t recognize my voice – she actually didn’t listen to me at all,” laughs Mike, and Carrie agrees, saying, “I actually listened to the competing radio station!” Regardless of Carrie’s listening preferences, when Mike got a better job at a radio station in Colorado Springs, Colorado a little over two months later, Carrie found herself moving out there with him. Then they bounced around a little – a year and a half in Colorado Springs, four in Duluth, Minnesota, Omaha, Nebraska for one, and Milwaukee for nine years. “Radio isn’t always lucrative,” Mike says about his many relocations. “There are always layoffs or format changes. I’ve been employed often, but I’ve also had successful stints in unemployment as well!”

The Mesics came to Door County for a vacation during their first summer in Milwaukee. “We had friends that kept telling us, ‘You have to go up there,’ and so we did,” Carrie says. They were prepared for the beauty of the peninsula – what they weren’t prepared for is how much they would want to live there. “On our last afternoon here, we sat at Shipwrecked in Egg Harbor – it was a beautiful, sunny day – and plotted how we were going to eventually get up here for good,” Carrie says.

It had always been Mike’s dream to have his own radio station, although simply starting a new station isn’t as easy as it sounds. “Unfortunately, you can’t just wake up one day and start a new station,” Mike says. “You first have to petition the FCC [Federal Communications Commission] for the allocation of the channel. And you better hire an engineer do to do the legwork as far as the paperwork, or they won’t even look at it. Then, the channel goes to auction and all the parties interested in the channel get to bid on it. So, even if you petition for a certain channel, there’s a strong possibility that you might not even get it once it goes to auction. It’s often a long road.” To prove that point, Mike goes on to say that once he and Carrie petitioned for 106.9 The Lodge, the paperwork sat there for seven years before the FCC even took a look at it.

The auction for the channel was finally held in March 2007, with 125 interested licenses bidding on it. The auction dragged on 28 long days with several bidders vying for the Door County permit. This time, the folks who petitioned for the channel won. And, in a whirlwind series of events, the Mesics moved to Door County, started remodeling their current Door County office with the help of local handyman Todd Jensen, secured Ephraim Post Office Box #106, and began their first day of broadcasting on April 26, 2008 – at 1:06 in the afternoon, of course.

Even before all of these events took place, the Mesics had already begun researching the county’s listening habits in earnest. When asked how they went about this task, the answer was easy. “Jukeboxes,” Carrie says. “We combed out every possible Door County establishment for jukeboxes – the Bayside, Mojo Rosa’s, Northern Grill, places in Sturgeon Bay – you name the place, and chances are we had spent more than a few dollars in quarters there! We already had a pretty solid idea of what people on the peninsula wanted to hear – we just needed to confirm it.”

They also spoke with many a Door County resident and visitor and got the scoop on how they really felt about radio on the peninsula. “We got the feeling almost immediately that there was a pretty great live local music scene on the peninsula, but that scene wasn’t translating into any radio airplay,” Mike says. “We decided that if that was an important part of people’s entertainment, then there was no reason it shouldn’t be on our radio station as well.” The Mesics actually took this a step further when 106.9 The Lodge hosted five America’s Got Talent parties to celebrate the success of Door County’s own Eli Mattson, who was runner-up on the popular NBC variety show.

The Mesics also looked to see what was playing on other radio stations in premier resort areas. “The interest in arts and entertainment in Door County is very similar to what is played in a place like Martha’s Vineyard or Stowe, Vermont.” Mike says. “There are upscale locals and upscale visitors, and we base a lot of what we play on that fact.”

Because of this extensive research, The Lodge is purely a labor of love for Door County locals and visitors alike. The station’s antenna is strategically placed, so the signal reaches all the way from Washington Island to the Southern Door area. The Wednesday night “Lodge Local 106.9” show, hosted by emcee Jimmie Riley, has been one of The Lodge’s biggest hits with listeners, playing, as Mike says, “songs about Door County, songs by Door County artists, or simply songs written in Door County.”

Mike also prides the station on having a “More Music Morning Show,” which plays music from 6:00 am to 10:00 am – complete with 106-second news updates throughout the morning. “So many people want music in the mornings when they’re trying to get motivated – not talk,” Mike says. The “More Music Mornings” wrap up with the “Ten at 10” program, in which ten songs are played for one particular year. Children of the ‘70s and ‘80s will enjoy the Saturday morning ‘70s and ‘80s weekend programs Mike schedules. And, for visitors to Door County who aren’t lucky enough to reach The Lodge on their radio dial at home, the Mesics are proud to announce the station is streaming online – live – for the whole world to hear.

Not only is The Lodge a labor of love, but it’s also a local labor of love. All aspects of maintaining the radio station are done in their Ephraim office – from the actual programming of the station to advertising sales and website design. The Mesics take immense pride in this, and say that the homegrown feel of their station always leaves room for comments and feedback.

“We’re always looking for input,” Mike says. “We’re not just playing our favorite songs. We know that we can’t be everything to everyone, but we really do want to try and be most things to most people. We owe that to ourselves – and we also owe it to our listeners and advertisers.”

For more information on FM 106.9 The Lodge, or to stream the station live, visit Or, simply turn to 106.9 on your Door County radio dial.