By Scott Sullivan
Tower Marine of Douglas and Saugatuck Yacht Service have been sold after 65 years in the Peterson family to Safe Harbor Marinas.
Safe Harbor, the world’s largest owner and operator of marinas, with more than 130 such facilities across 24 states and Puerto Rico, also acquired the Red Dock real estate east of Tower.
“This is a big milestone,” said Matt Peterson, third-generation family owner and son of R.J. Peterson, who died Aug. 11, 2020, at age 93 having worked almost till that time.
“We’re extremely excited about what this means for our people, our customers, our partners as well as for the community,” he said.
Together with Tower and SYS, Safe Harbor acquires more than 500 deep-water slips, heated and cold-storage boat facilities, ship’s store, three travel lifts with up to 50-ton capacity, pool, modern showers and washrooms, picnic areas, green spaces and a children’s playground.
Tower was founded 65 years ago by Rolland E. Peterson with his son R.J., and has long been a local staple, bringing in attractions such as the 336-foot-long S.S. Keewatin, last of the Great Lakes steamships, kept as a museum near the Red Dock for close to 50 years.
“My grandpa, dad, brother Erik, mom Diane and many more deserve credit for making this possible,” said Matt Peterson.
“We’d like to thank our loyal customers, terrific employees, and the community for letting us be part of their lives for so many years,” he went on.
“The story of Safe Harbor,” said Matt’s wife Cindy Peterson, “is one of astonishing growth, persistent innovation and a relentless commitment to excellence.
“Safe Harbor will bring a high level of expertise and personalized service to the Saugatuck-Douglas boating community. It will be exciting to see how they grow the business,” she said.
A letter from Safe Harbor CEO Baxter Underwood to Tower and SYC boaters apprised them, “You may or may not know that Safe Harbor Marinas is the largest marina network in the world.
“As an organization, we are entirely dedicated to serving our membership with the highest standard of excellence in every aspect of our operations,” his letter continued. “We are thrilled to have the opportunity to serve you and earn your trust and respect.
“Additionally we are dedicated to not only ensuring your boating needs are met every time you are with us, but also continuing to invest in your experience through capital improvements and network-wide initiatives designed to enhance your overall access to and enjoyment of our world-class marine facilities.
“As a new member of Safe Harbor Marinas, you know have a boating home not only in Douglas or Saugatuck, but at over 130 other locations across our network,” Underwood’s letter continued.
“Head north and dock at Safe Harbor Grand Isle while you explore the historic attractions and famed boardwalk in downtown Grand Haven. Extend your Great Lakes journey and visit beautiful Lake St. Clair and the many shops and delicious restaurants of the Nautical Mile.
“Or take the trip of a lifetime and adventure your way through the Great Loop stopping at Safe Harbor locations from Vermont to Alabama and back again.
“No matter where the water inspires you to be, you now have a home at every Safe Harbor location in our portfolio,” he said.
“It is with a heavy heart,” said Douglas Mayor Jerry Donovan, “the city bids farewell to a decades-long association with the Peterson family.
“Established more than 80 years ago, Tower Marine became a cornerstone of the community, with R.J. Peterson and his iconic personality leading the charge on many, many civic efforts.
“Tower Marine’s impact on the growth of the popularity of the community knows no bounds as the area became one of the top tourist destinations in the nation, if not the world,” Donovan went on. Their impact cannot be overstated.
“We sincerely wish Matt, Cindy and the rest of the Peterson family the best of luck in their future endeavors and hope they enjoy happiness in every step and at every turn.”
“Douglas simultaneously has the honor of welcoming Safe Harbor Marina to our beloved City. As the largest owner of marinas in the world, it is with great pride that we welcome them and embrace the fact that they selected Douglas as the most recent addition to their ‘port’-folio,” Donovan continued.
“We look forward to working with them during the transition and assist them during any potential growth and expansion they may undertake.”
For more information about the new owner, visit https://shmarinas.com.
By Scott Sullivan