This spring one of the largest privately owned marinas in the entire country changed ownership and with that change came a change in direction, taking a 550 slip working marina that dates back to the depression, and converting it into a lifestyle marina.
Benn Spiegel recruited veteran marina managers, Michelle and Rob Walters to take the old working marina over and transform it into what Benn calls a lifestyle marina with resort quality amenities, green space for everyone to enjoy, landscaped grounds and more.
The Galley Guys took a particular interest in the newly revitalized Krates Marina so we contacted the new managers and offered to put on a Galley Guys dinner on Benn Spiegel’s boat. The Galley Guys are nothing if not forward! The idea was to have a friendly group get together to talk about boating in general, new trends in the industry and Krates in particular.
With the recently completed extension of Highway 404 that extends north of Toronto, the Krates Marina facility in Keswick, Ontario is a mere 45 minutes north of Highway 401. Of course, more and more business and residential development is locating in places like Markham, Vaughn, Richmond Hill and Aurora, so the Krates facility is even more conveniently located to those places.
Galley Guy John Armstrong, who once lived in India, wanted to put together one of his favorite meals; Tandoori Chicken with Samosas, Raita (which is grated English cucumber with yoghurt, cilantro and some other secret ingredients) and Naan bread to accompany the meal. Fellow Galley Guys Greg Nicoll and Andy Adams choose the wines – as usual!
Over a relaxed dinner by the lake, we learned about the many changes that have taken place at Krates this past spring and summer.
Andy – Krates is a great location. Do most of your customers use the marina as their summer home?
Michelle – Absolutely. This is their summer home.
Rob – Just recently, we had a first time boater from Woodbridge come to Krates. Most of the boaters only need to drive about 40 minutes to get here. It’s a 550 slip marina and people come Friday and stay to Sunday. It’s their home away from home. We have two heated pools, badminton, horseshoes…
Andy – Do most boaters here also have a “little boat”?
Rob – Sure. We have slips down to 20 footers, then people have tenders on their swim platforms, or tied in their slips behind the bigger boats. They can go out, go fishing…
Andy – It’s a great lifestyle to be out in the clean water and fresh air.
John – Does Krates attract a lot of transient boaters from other areas?
Rob – Like last weekend, we had boaters here from Starport Landing…a 40 footer. They use the fuel dock…the pumpout. We don’t specifically have transient slips but we can generally accommodate guests. Boaters want to get together. The best publicity is word of mouth. When they have a good time, they spread the word. And we have good high speed Wi-Fi!
John – Transient boaters may also come for the service. That can be a profit centre for the marina, especially off-season work.
Rob – Absolutely!
Benn – We committed to our staff that we are running a year-round facility. That’s unusual because in many places, the technicians get laid off in the winter. We are committed to keeping them on. We are converting Krates from a working marina to a lifestyle marina. Rob’s doing a great job but it takes time. A lifestyle marina is where there is green space for things like swimming pools, party areas for birthdays, BBQs and so on. A working marina has a bunch of boats on land surrounded by boats in the water and that takes up the green space.
Greg – Isn’t it true that the services in Keswick are an attraction?
Benn – That’s a huge advantage over competitors in more remote marinas where you have to load up on food and things. We are close to a Wal-Mart and other stores. It’s convenient.
Rob – Krates is one of the largest businesses in Georgina. Our skilled technicians are local and we employ local students through the summer. Tourism is a big business here.
The dinner conversation and the beautiful evening weather continued as we discussed more of the future plans for Krates Marina but this lovely and very convenient location is more attractive than ever to boaters, both experienced and new.
The Galley Guys wish the team at Krates every success in the coming seasons!
Photo 1 – Good food and good friends! From the left, Greg Nicoll, John Armstrong, Michelle and Rob Walters, Benn Spiegel and Andy Adams.
Photo 2 – Michelle and Rob Walters, marina managers.