Longtime Crosslake family marine business sells
The purchase of Al's Marine will make expansion possible in the Crosslake market.
After 46 years with the Flemmer family, Al's Marine in Crosslake will have new owners.
Jim Glenn and partner Mike Larson are purchasing the business, possibly before the end of the year.
Glenn and Larson are the proprietors of five Outlet Recreation locations, including one already in Crosslake. The addition of a waterfront location will allow local manager Nick Buckenthin to focus on watercraft at the current Al's Marine, and utility trailers, recreational vehicles and fish houses at the County Road 3 location south of Crosslake.
"We're expanding and getting heavier into the marine industry," Glenn said. "They have water access, which is kind of vital in the marine business."
" It won't be easy for any of us, it'll be weird for a while"
— Joe Flemmer.
After the sale, customers can expect to get much of the same service they get now at Al's Marine.
"The goal is to keep the transition as smooth as possible for Al's Marine's current customer base," Glenn said. "They have been in business for 40-plus years, so they have a large customer base. That's goal No. 1, so not a lot of changes. We'll be introducing new product lines for sale and service and then continue what Al's Marine is currently doing."
In addition to current employees, Glenn said they are looking to add four to six employees, bringing the total to 18-20.
The business has come a long way since Al and Judy Flemmer bought the property in 1975. Previously, Al worked as a machinist when his company announced it was moving to Arizona.
" In the showroom of the old shop you could fit one snowmobile in it, basically, maybe two. If you really maneuvered them you could get two in them and they were packed. It wasn't like you could walk around."
— Kim Perkins.
"We didn't think we wanted to move to Arizona," Judy said. "He had a family cabin here in the north."
A family friend in realty told them about a marine business with attached living space. The Flemmers put an offer down and became the new owners.
Back then the space was so small that the doors on the shop couldn't be closed if a boat was inside being worked on. If the oil was being drained out of a lower unit, a windbreak made of plywood had to be set up to keep the wind from blowing the oil all over the place.
The new building that went up around 2006 is so much larger that they built it around the old shop before demolishing it.
" The goal is to keep the transition as smooth as possible for Al's Marine's current customer base. They have been in business for 40 plus years, so they have a large customer base. That's goal number one."
— Jim Glenn.
"In the showroom of the old shop you could fit one snowmobile in it, basically - maybe two," said Kim Perkins, the Flemmers' daughter. "If you really maneuvered them you could get two in there and they were packed. It wasn't like you could walk around."
Al and Judy's children - Perkins, Mike Flemmer and Joe Flemmer - grew up working in the business, and even those who moved away at some point returned to the business when they were older. In 2006, their parents gifted the business to them.
Al's Marine has operated much the same way for many years. One of the bigger changes came when the business stopped selling snowmobiles four years ago.
"We've pretty much stuck with everything we've always done as far as boat lifts and docks," Joe said. "In the early years we used to do runabouts and fishing boats along with pontoons, and then we slowly transitioned into just pontoon sales."
"At one time we acquired Crosslake Mini Storage," Judy said. "And we started renting boats and named it Leisure Day Pontoon Rental."
As time moved on, Perkins decided she would like to retire with her husband. Joe and Mike want to have more time off. After all, when everyone else is having fun on the water is when they are busiest.
"I'm glad for them," Judy said. "We don't have any grandsons to take over and all the granddaughters are in their own careers."
The family says they will miss the regular interaction with the customers who they have gotten to know over the years.
"It won't be easy for any of us. It'll be weird for a while," Joe said.
"I want to make sure that our customers know how much we appreciate everything that they did for us all these years," Perkins said. "A lot of them were multi-generation customers. And that's huge. And we appreciate that and we're going to miss them. But we look forward to seeing them out and about, maybe doing something fun instead of in the shop because their boat broke down. Of course, we wish the new owners all the best."
"Al's Marine's reputation was very strong," Glenn said. "We want to continue that reputation and take care of the customer as best we can."
Travis Grimler is a staff writer for the Pineandlakes Echo Journal weekly newspaper in Pequot Lakes/Pine River. He may be reached at 218-855-5853 or firstname.lastname@example.org.