On a sunny Saturday in August, Kennisis Lake Marina and Storage is full of conversation and laughter. People play corn hole with a scenic view of the lake, chat dockside or sip lattes and eat ice cream outside the newly refurbished store, cafe and ice cream bar.

Gary Bouwmeister, Chad Burden and Jim Dale said their goal is to create a community “destination” that’s a whole lot more than a place to store boats.

Bouwmeister, in an interview beside the marina, gestures to a crowd of corn hole players chatting in the sun and tossing bean bags across the parking lot.

“Stuff like this brings people together,” he said with a smile.

The trio met on the lake: Bouwmeister and Dale, longtime cottagers, joined up with Burden to buy the marina last year. Burden had been leasing the space from its previous owners.

“The three of us got together and talked about what the future could bring here,” Dale said. They all had a part in planning changes, and getting the marina operational for the summer. Now Burden handles most of the day-to-day operations.

“I can’t ask for better partners, they’ve been great,” Burden said of Dale and Bouwmeister. He mentioned how the first goal of the renovations was to make use of all the marina’s property.

The renovated storefront and cafe, cleaning up the lot and installing pickleball courts came together fast. Those spring renovations meant they could open for the 2021 cottage season. Kayaks, water skis and paddle boards are available to rent and the trio is planning self storage units to be available in the future. Dale said they’ve also chatted about expanding food and beverage options in the main store.

Whether through corn hole tournaments, pickleball games, concerts or their busy storefront, Dale said he wants to invest in the community through the marina.

“It’s a very tangible thing. People on the lake can see it and experience it,” said Dale, who works in the financial industry in Toronto. And for the owners, it was important the marina become a place they’d want to hang out as well. “We’re cottagers here too, we want it to be fun as well,” Dale said.

Throughout the marina’s grounds, staff and customers greet Bouwmeister, Dale and Burden by their first names. They pose with the corn hole tournament winners and chat with onlookers in the hot summer sun.

On Aug. 28, they’re inviting the community to the famous annual “Rock on the Dock” concert at the marina, with proceeds going to SIRCH Community Services.

“It’s a business venture,” Dale said, “but it’s a lot more than that to us as well.”

Get The Highlander in your inbox every Thursday