If you’re a good Minnesotan, then this summer you’ve probably found yourself out on at least one of the state’s famed 10,000 lakes. These spots, big and small, of cool blue water are a critical part of Minnesota’s cultural identity, but the businesses that help keep lakes accessible—local marinas—often go unsung.
Along with providing wider public access to the lakes, marinas are the only locations allowed to dispense gasoline to boats and pump out boat waste tanks, as well as serving as a place to store boats and helping local law enforcement and Water Patrol in tasks like search and rescue operations.
At North Shore Marina on Lake Minnetonka, owner Rich Anderson knows the business well.
“My first adventure into the marina [industry] was in 1976,” he says. “I was 23 years old, and me and a couple of buddies were into sailing and ventured out selling sailboats.” From there, Anderson acquired and sold various marina properties, becoming the owner of North Shore Marina in 1994.
His family-owned marina locations now offer boat storage, on-site seasonal maintenance, dry rack and in-water boat slips, and boat winterizing and summerizing. The maintenance option is especially convenient for customers because, when it comes to taking care of a boat, checking in regularly is key.
“You definitely need to do recommended maintenance items,” says Anderson. “Then [yearly care] is not bad and you will have a great summer.”
Over the course of his career, Anderson has seen trends on the lake come and go, watching sailboats become a rarer sight as power boats have gained popularity. Something new he’s seen pop up recently are surf boats made for wakeboarding. “All ages go out and have a wonderful time,” he says. “It gets the family unit together, the boats are fun to drive, and the kids love it because they are lake surfing.”
Family is important to Anderson, too, who now runs the marinas with the help of his son and other family members. Besides seeing the types of boats in the lake change, Anderson has also seen the lake itself alter over time, which can be a challenge for his business.
“The main thing we have to roll with over the years is weather,” he explains, noting that when the water level is too low or too high it can cause problems with marina operations.
The marinas must also be aware of weather before and after the lakes ice over during winter each year. Moving big, heavy boats in and out of the water is also no easy task. To achieve this, North Shore Marina is home to one of only two Travelift units on the lake, which are specialty boat hoists able to lift heavier vessels.
When he’s able to take a break from working on the marina, Anderson prefers hitting the water in a 38-foot long A scow sailboat. If you ask him where he’s sailing, he has only one answer: “10,000 lakes and this is the best one … Lake Minnetonka.” No question in our minds, either.