A Legacy In Progress, Jan 2007

The new owner of Hall’s Boat hopes to make Lake George a nationally-known center for wooden boat conservation

By Anthony F. Hall
The Lake George Mirror
January 2007

In 2008, the boat yard across the water from Lake George Village will be one hundred years old. For all but two of those years, it will have been owned by two families only: Walt Harris’, who made it the largest Fay & Bowen dealership in the country, and the family of Hibbard Hall, who bought the property in 1928.

But at that centennial birthday party, a third family will be represented, that of Steve Lamondo, the young, Connecticut-based entrepreneur who purchased the company in 2006 and who promises not only to continue to operate Hall’s Boat as a marina but to make it a nationally-known center for wooden boat conservation.

"This has been a boat yard for one hundred years, and I’m committed to keeping it one," said Lamondo. "Rather than seeing it become condos, I want to work with Hib Nash to enhance Hall’s Boat, to see it grow. I’ve always found great pleasure in developing and building businesses that distinguish themselves by the exceptional service and the superior advice and technical knowledge they provide customers."

Developers have shown interest in turning the property into a site for second homes and docks, said Nash, one of Hall’s grandchildren and the company’s general manager, a position he’ll retain under the new owner. "We turned down many offers to sell the property because we didn’t want to see Hall’s close."

Lamondo was the ideal buyer, Nash said.

Now a summer resident of Shelving Rock, Lamondo has been coming to Lake George since he was a child. He owns antique wooden boats and, in fact, was familiar with Hall’s Boat long before he gave any thought to purchasing it.

"I love Lake George, it’s the most beautiful lake in the world," says Lamondo. "As a customer of Hall’s, I got to know Hib, I saw what he was doing, and I saw the potential of this business. Hall’s gives me and my family the opportunity to pursue two passions: wooden boats and the history surrounding them; and the excitement of developing a business."

Had Hall’s Boat closed, Lake George would have lost more than a marina (though it can ill-afford that, as both the Town of Bolton and the State of New York acknowledged last year when they acquired Norowal marina to maintain public access to the lake); it would have lost something of its history.

It was the place where the residents of Millionaire’s Row, New York Times publisher Adolph Ochs among them, bought their boats and had them repaired and refinished.

It was Gar Wood’s Lake George dealer and the place to buy a See Bee airplane. It survived two fires and the Great Depression

Thanks to Nash, it even survived the death of Hall himself. Nash returned to Lake George in 1997 to take over the operation of the business. Its reputation had suffered during the years when it was managed by non-family staff, and Nash was anxious to restore the marina to its former prominence.

Taking advantage of the resurgence in interest in wooden boats, Nash reoriented the boat yard’s focus to wooden boat restoration and sales, an effort hampered by a 2002 fire that destroyed buildings and boats, as well as the company’s historic archives.

But with Steve Lamondo’s acquisition, Nash says, "we’ll bring Hall’s Boat to the place it was going."

"We can get it to where it should be," says Lamondo.

That destination, they say, is nothing less than a Hall’s Boat that is "a brand that will be recognized by wooden boat enthusiasts nationally as a key place to: buy and sell wooden boats; receive comprehensive high quality services; get outstanding historic and technical information; and enjoy the wooden boating experience."

Their more immediate ambition is to make Hall’s Boat: "the number one provider of restoration and refinishing, engine repair... and brokerage services for wooden boats in the Adirondack Lake Region; a key attraction and an asset to the region, where wooden boat enthusiasts can meet, share stories, discuss history and view and experience wooden boats first hand."

His first year as owner, Lamondo says, "will be a building year."

The physical facilities are being improved and renovated, new staff members have been recruited and current customers are being contacted to determine how service can be improved.

"Hall’s Boat has great customers, and we want to keep them," Lamondo said. He envisions Hall’s Boat as a facility that offers "a concierge level of service" to those who dock and launch their boats there and who rely upon Hall’s for service, repairs and maintenance of their boats.

And with additional staff, Hall’s will be able to accommodate even more boats in need ’of restoration,  said Lamondo.

They’ll not only restore wood boats to their original conditions, they’ll restore the antique engines as well, he said.

To attract and retain the craftsmen and expert mechanics necessary to fulfill that pledge, Lamondo said, Hall’s will offer year-round benefits like health insurance, one of the few Adirondack businesses to do so.

"That was the philosophy of Hibbard Hall," Lamondo said.

"treat employees well."

"Hall’s Boat was always a teaching facility," said Nash.  "That’s what we want it to continue to be: a place where the next generation of boat restorers and re-finishers learn their craft."

Lamondo acknowledges that his ambitions for Hall’s carry a price. He’s already invested approximately $3 million in the purchase and renovations of the property. 

He does expect a return on his investment – "bottom line: you hope to make a reasonable profit" – but the largest return may come, he says, in the form of the personal satisfaction in seeing Lake George remain a place famed for its wooden boats.

"I’m really captivated by the stories of every antique wooden boat, especially when I learn she’s passed my dock every summer for 50 to 100 years. Because of the work we do at Hall’s, she’s likely to do the same for another 100 years," says Lamondo. "It’s a legacy in progress, and there’s certainly a lot of satisfaction in that."

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