When Scott and Kim Smith bought the Wonder Lake Marina in 2002, they initially relied on the experience Scott gained as a teenager working at the marina in the 1970s to keep Wonder Lake’s only boat fueling and service station in operation.
But over the 20 years they ran the business, the couple added to its capabilities and enhanced the safety of boating on Wonder Lake.
On Thursday, Scott Smith, who was born and raised in Wonder Lake, stood at the marina beside the area couple he recently sold the business to and credited George Hartmann, who died Sept. 25 at age 86, for having the vision to help start the Wonder Lake Marina.
“Without his foresight into what could be here, there would be no marina,” Scott Smith said.
He and Kim Smith, who got married nine years into their joint marina business venture, sold the property on the lake’s east shore for $400,000 to Damian and Brehan Bonham, who have lived in the Wonder Lake area for several years, according to the marina operators and McHenry County Recorder’s Office.
“It was difficult for the first 10 years,” Kim Smith said.
“It all fell together,” her husband said.
The sale closed Aug. 27 after the property had been for sale for two years, the Smiths said.
Damian Bonham said boating has been a hobby, and he and his wife and kids enjoy being on the water, so they “saw the opportunity and went for it.”
Since the Bonhams closed on the property, area residents have offered congratulations and encouragement on their leap into the business.
“The support of the community has been really humbling,” Damian Bonham said.
This will be the couple’s second foray into business ownership, as Brehan Bonham also runs the Elite Core Gymnastics center in West Dundee.
Scott Smith said he built a service barge for the marina during his ownership and helped make it into a full-service marina, as the barge, according to the business’ Facebook page, “can do anything from installing and removing boat lifts or docking to ‘on-the-spot welding.’ ”
The business also has boat slip rentals, which include a boat lift, a technician to service most boat makes and models, and a large parts sales department. The Bonhams hope to add to the business by bringing on a staff mechanic who could perform more boat and part repairs than the current staff.
The new marina owners also have plans to invest in the business with renovations, additions to its food menu and retail offerings for boating and fishing accessories. Damian Bonham said he also is considering pursuing a liquor license for the business, or at least one that would allow the sale of pre-packaged alcohol so boaters had a place to refill their coolers.
“We want it to be even more of a place to grab a bite to eat, have a good time and relax,” Damian Bonham said.
Scott Smith said he plans to continue helping out at the business for the next few months into the spring. Then he and his wife hope to spend some time on a house boat during their retirement, but they haven’t yet decided where.
The Smiths lived in an apartment built above the marina overlooking the lake, but they recently moved within Wonder Lake into a house a short distance away. They said they also are looking forward to getting their own boat out on the lake more often next year than they could while running the marina.