By Christine Graf
Pilot Knob Marina, one of the oldest marinas on Lake George, was purchased by Massachusetts healthcare software company owner, John Donnelly and his wife, Christine.
The marina is located in Pilot Knob while the sales outlet is located at 655 Route 149 in Lake George.
Donnelly said he has always been drawn to boating. At one time, he and his wife owned a home on Harris Bay. His father also lived in Lake George for 20 years.
“I’ve been around boats my whole life. I’ve sailed. I’ve done ocean racing. I’ve done powerboating. Being around boats is really a passion of mine,” he said. “My wife and I have been talking about buying a marina for a number of years, and we aren’t getting any younger and are in our 50s.”
When the opportunity arose to purchase Pilot Knob Marina from Nick Barber and Mike Smith, the Donnelly’s jumped at the opportunity. Barber and Smith operated the 99-year-old marina since 1986. Pilot Knob is a Chaparral boat and Arctic Cat power-sports dealer.
“It’s a great little marina that’s got a big heart and a lot of potential,” said Donnelly. “They aren’t allowing any more marinas on the lake, so you’ve got this gem that’s been there since 1922. They (Barber and Smith) owned it for 35 years, and it was time for them to pass the baton. I promised them I would keep the torch lit.”
According to Donnelly, one of the marina’s greatest assets is its staff of six full-time employees including longtime employees Ann Clugstone and Ron Ristau.
“All of the employees are equally dedicated and talented and have been there a long time. That’s what kind of drew me to it. There is such a great crew that I felt could help us grow the business,” he said.
In addition to the marina and the retail store, the purchase included a three-bedroom lakefront home and two additional parcels of land located off Pilot Knob Road in Fort Ann. The parcels are used for indoor and outdoor boat storage.
“There is a lot of land that came with the purchase,” said Donnelly. “I saw an opportunity to increase boat sales as well as boat storage.”
According to Donnelly, he will be making a “sizable” investment in the marina in the coming years.
“It’s going to take a substantial investment to get this marina to where I want it which is storing lots of boats, servicing lots of boats, and having a destination that people want to come to,” he said. “Boats are very expensive, and you want your boat taken care of very well. When you spend $100,000 on a boat, you want to make sure that it’s stored in a place where it’s going to be dry and secure, and you want to make sure it is serviced by the best technicians.”
Donnelly plans to expand the training that Pilot Knob employees receive. He also expects to more than double his staff by next year.
“I met with them and told them that education is one of most important things for us,” he said. “We’re going to focus on different certifications that we can get for our employees, and my goal is to expand the 18 employees next summer. I want to hire the best people and create the best work environment for them.”
In addition to improving the marina’s gas dock, Donnelly will also add a commissary that sells snacks and drinks. He has owned the marina for less than one month but can envision what it will look like ten years from now. By that time, he and his wife also hope to own their own house on the lake.
“The words that I would use are refined Adirondack,” he said. “Picture an Adirondack experience. That’s what we are trying to shoot for. The buildings and marina will fit into the Adirondack atmosphere and fit in with that Adirondack theme.”
Donnelly’s company, FrontRunner HC of Plymouth, Mass., provides software that enables healthcare facilities and independent labs to facilitate building.
“We primarily focus on data automation and date integrity,” he said. “We developed a product called LabXchange which automates the data entry for a lot of the COVID testing that the nation is dealing with right now. We’ve been focusing on really helping the nation deal with the COVID crisis. Our company has seen incredible growth.”
For more information, visit www.pilotknob.com