New Owners in New York Expand Boat Club with Marina Purchase

After owning a boat club and leasing space for three years, Matt and Rebecca O’Hara are launching new careers as first-time marina owners on Lake George in New York.

For some years the couple had been operating a boat club at another marina. Owning a marina was important to their long-term goal to continue expanding Freedom Boat Club of Lake George. “We knew we needed to plan ahead for our growth, and dock space on Lake George, like in many areas, is scarce,” Matt said. “We looked at several properties, and the one we purchased had the right mix of location and potential to remake into our vision of a what a marina these days should be. Most importantly, it is two minutes away from Rebecca’s parents’ and grandmother’s lake houses, where our kids spend a lot of the summer and will enable us to spend much more time with our family while running the business.”

The O’Haras purchased the former Dunham’s Bay Boat Co. in October 2018 for $1.8 million. Since then they have embarked on a number of improvements to the property as well as rebranding the marina as Queen Boat Co.

“Boaters are expecting more out of their marina in 2019, and it was obvious we had a lot of physical work to do on the property to meet these expectations,” O’Hara said. “As work commenced, it sparked the need to refresh the personality of the marina to better reflect this evolution, as well as our commitment to providing a high-level of customer service. We wanted a new name and identity that called to mind the iconic nature and history of our beautiful lake, yet also put our dedication to red-carpet service at the forefront.”

Sign up for the Marina Dock Age newsletter.Our newsletter delivers the latest news straight to your inbox including breaking news, our exclusive content covering the marina and boatyard industry, new products, and much more.

In addition to reflecting the renewed energy at the marina, they wanted a concept that would appeal to a younger generation of boaters who will help drive the business forward. The couple worked with Normand in Marketing who suggested the Queen concept early in the process since Lake George is known to many as the “Queen of American Lakes.”

Since 2016, the O’Haras had operated a Freedom Boat Club franchise at Beckley’s Marina. They have moved the franchise to their new marina, but O’Hara said they would like to open more locations in the future. For now, though, their focus is on improving the marina.

Work is under way on infrastructure changes that will improve the marina and lessen the environmental impact, such as excavating an underground storage tank, replacing it with a new above-ground tank and replacing the fuel pump. They are engineering a new wastewater system and will implement stormwater controls that include cisterns, rain gardens and eve trenches. O’Hara said they are also exploring the idea of adding solar panels.

The 30-slip marina includes a ship store and restrooms with showers. The second phase of the renovation will allow them to add more amenities and services. The O’Haras hired Phinney Design Group in Saratoga Springs, New York, to develop a master site plan.

In the new Queen Boat Co. location, the boat club fleet will increase from seven to 12 boats this year, including Bennington and Sweetwater tritoons, Regal crossovers, Four Winns deck boats, and new this year, a Cobia center console. Additional services offered at the marina this summer will include Tracker Boat sales, Torqeedo electric motor sales, a fuel dock offering non-ethanol fuel, and a revamped service department and ship store.

The on-site service department was another factor in the couple’s decision to buy the property. “It would save us lots of time and money on maintaining our own fleet. The marina property also gives us winter storage space, more savings,” O’Hara said. “The economies of scale of staffing the marina and club were favorable. We just got very excited about all the opportunities that can develop from owning the marina and the increase in amenities it would allow us to offer members.”

O’Hara said there are numerous advantages to having a boat club at the marina. The club provides a steady and dependable source of dock rental income, and the fuel and store revenue are greater for a boat club than for seasonal boaters.

“The members are very respectful, responsible boaters who treat the marina like it is their home,” he said. “The training boaters go through makes us much more comfortable on the docks with all the boats coming and going.”

Additionally, O’Hara said the club helps create a buzz and excitement around the marina that entices people to come check it out. “It allows us to truly deliver the right boating experience to customers; we can sell them a boat or a membership, whatever the best fit is for their lifestyle. Getting them started the right way will keep them in the industry for a long time,” O’Hara said.