By Matt Schepeler
Brooklyn-Irish Hills Chamber of Commerce Director Bill Fetters presented the Business of the Year award for 2018 to Devil’s Lake Marine at the organizations annual meeting at the Clark Lake Golf Course last week.
Fetters’ relationship with the Apling family, which owns the business, goes way back. Holding up a water ski, Fetters asked if anybody in the room recognized it.
“It is a Connelly water ski, circa 1983,” said Fetters. “It was the summer of 1983, and my family had just opened up our own business (Woodstock Wine and Cheese). I had joined the Devil’s Lake Water Ski team a couple of months before that. My friends in the ski club told me about another business in the area that had opened up earlier that summer where I could buy my own skis and stop borrowing theirs,” said Fetters.
“It had just opened up outside of the Manitou Beach Village area. It was called Devil’s Lake Water Sports. They had a modest little showroom and I went in to get what I needed. A young fellow named Pat Apling came up to me and helped me out.”
Fetters noted that by the late 1980s, Dave, the business patriarch, and his sons had outgrown that building, moved across the street to the larger facility, and began opening storage buildings.
By the mid-1990s it was evident that they would need to expand again, and they began work on “the beautiful structure that we now see on Round Lake Highway and U.S. 223,” said Fetters.
Today the homegrown business employs around a dozen full-time employees and provides seasonal work to about 40 additional people. “Their storage facilities house thousands of boats, and they are pushing out around 300 new boat sales a year and are the largest Crest Pontoon dealer in the world,” said Fetters.
The company is driven by a simple philosophy: “Treat People the way we would like to be treated and provide our customers with services that exceed expectations.”
Upon receiving the award, business partner Mike Apling noted that there has been “many ups and a few downs, mostly ups” and added that the company has always been community-focused. “But it doesn’t matter how much we give, you always get so much more back,” he said.
Over the years, the company has grown to become one of Michigan’s largest boat and pontoon dealers by taking care of their customers one at a time.
Besides being the world’s largest Crest Pontoon dealer, the company is also a dealer for Harris pontoon boats, Cypress Cay pontoon boats, and Mastercraft boat company inboard ski and wakeboard boats. Devils Lake Water Sports is a Mercury Marine authorized dealer and service center.
In addition to boat sales, the company also offers boat repair and service as well as winter boat storage and winterization of all types of boats. They also have indoor and outdoor shrinkwrap available.
The company’s pro shop and accessory sales include (still!) Connelly Skis, CWB wakeboards and wakesurf boards, Connelly SUP (stand up paddle) boards, and tubes from Connelly, Sportsstuff, and Airhead.
To learn more about Devil’s Lake Water Sports, visit their website at dlwatersports.com, call 517-467-4818, or stop in at 14581 U.S. 223 during business hours: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday.