Glen Craft Marina opens doors to the public

GLEN ARBOR – Sometimes tragedy can bring opportunity, both personal and professional. For Tom Aylsworth, it was a serious injury that prompted his decision to leave his position as Leelanau County prosecutor and buy Glen Craft Marina and Resort with his wife Kathy.

Born and raised on the shores of Glen Lake, leaving only to attend law school, Aylsworth had always wanted to own a marina. As a child, he spent a lot of time with Phil Krull, a property owner who later started a marina on the lake. Krull passed away about 10 years ago.

According to Aylsworth, he and Kathy were interested in purchasing the marina for the past three or four years. After many discussions and negotiations, it finally all came together about a year and a half ago.

Formerly a private marina, buying Glen Craft Marina and Resort was a “big undertaking.”

“I have to credit my family and Kathy for obtaining permits from the State of Michigan for gas, gas storage, liquor control, etc.,” he said. “Kathy also communicated the transition from private to public boat club. “It was very low key–basically word-of-mouth and letters.”

The couple saw to it that the “private property” and “no trespassing” signs were removed from the property.

“We were very much opposed to privacy,” said Aylsworth. “We’re doing what we can to increase use.”

The Aylsworths describe the resort as a “true marina,” which now provides year-round boat storage, service, sales and rentals, five moorings and 32 slips, lodging, and even a small supply store.

The marina carries Malibu, Manitou and Chris Craft boats, and is the only Chris Craft dealership in northern Michigan.

In the winter, the resort attracts downhill and cross-country skiers and snowmobilers. Though it’s only their first real winter as owners, the Aylsworths expect that “the winter trade is going to pick up, especially given the working relationship with the Homestead resort and Chamber of Commerce.”

One of the greatest rewards for Aylsworth is “waking up each morning and seeing my family doing something they enjoy.”

Kathy is president and bookkeeper for the operation, as well as for the Lake Shore Inn in Empire, which the family also owns and is managed by Kathy’s mother. Their son, Glen, is the sales manager of the marina, and their son-in-law, the general manager. Daughters Edie and Laura fill in on weekends. During busy times, “We all rent boats, fill them with gas, and run the party store. We’re jacks-of-all-trades in the summer,” said Kathy.

Overlooking the lake are seven condominiums housed in a lodge and four lakeside cottages, with names such as Happy Landing and Lake Street Retreat, accommodating from four to eight people each. The condos and log cabin-style lodge are open all year, and despite their rustic-style appearance, feature modern amenities such as cable television and phones. Rentals range from $595 to $1,895 per week, depending on the unit and season.

The Aylsworths rely on their web site (, direct mail, and repeat clientele to market the resort. So far, their methods are working well.

Their greatest challenge, according to Tom, is “trying to meet the needs of users. There is not enough space available to moor and use a boat or to access and use Glen Lake.”

And they have a list of people that want slips that will probably take them through 2010.

While this may sound like a future of financial security, “the money is secondary,” said Tom.

“I enjoy seeing little boys and girls come down with their fishing poles. Others chase them off,” he said. “I do everything but bait their hook.” BIZNEWS