Inlet Area Business Association - Featured Business

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Inlet Area Business Association - Featured Business

Each month the Inlet Area Business Association will share information with you about one of their paid members.

October 2017's business is:

Raquette Lake Navigation - W.W. Durant

The WW Durant is docked at Pier 1 in downtown Raquette Lake, just 12 miles east of Inlet and 25 miles east of Old Forge.  The village of Raquette Lake is tiny - there is a library, a tap room/general store/hotel, a post office, our caboose/gift shop and the boat!

The WW Durant is a floating restaurant where everyone has a window seat and a view of the water. They've been family-owned and operated since 1991 with Captain Dean Pohl, who built the vessel during the winters of 1990 and '91, providing 95% of the piloting, Donna Pohl assuming the role of daily operations manager, son Chef Jim Pohl, a Culinary Institute of America graduate, working as executive chef and daughter Rachel Pohl, a graduate of Buffalo State, acting as beverage manager, special events coordinator and head bartender.

The WW Durant offers 17 cruises per week during the busy summer season (the last Saturday in June through Labor Day weekend) including traditional dinner, intimate dining, luncheon, brunch, pizza cruises and scenic excursions. They offer many special events cruises like their annual Jimmy Buffet party over July 4th weekend, wine and beer pairing and tasting cruises, moonlight cruises with live entertainment, and Sip N Sail N Paint cruises. They are also available for private charters like weddings, rehearsal dinners, birthdays, anniversary parties, and bridal showers.

The Pohls are entrepreneurs who look for all kinds of opportunities to earn a living in Raquette Lake! They have been a family-owned and operated business since 1974, origianlly as just a general contracting/building business. They have also marketed and built floating docks and log lean-to kits, provided propane delivery by barge and residential/commercial garbage pick-up.  These are just a few of their ventures over the past 45 years.

Dean Pohl, Builder of the Vessel and Pilot - Dean built the WW Durant during the winters of 1990 and 1991. He could only build in the winter because he had to tend to his construction/maintenance superintendent businesses in spring,summer and fall. Donna was teaching at the time. Building the Durant was not a solo effort by any means! Though Dean did most of the carpentry/welding work, three of their employees played critical roles. Don Bird assisted with the thinking, engineering and planning. Garry Hazen did the plumbing and wiring. Bill Cooley installed the engines and did the mechanical work. The caboose was transformed from a conversation piece into a gift shop, featuring mostly items made locally, regionally and in the USA.  Dean also decided to freeze the Durant into the ice and open up during the winter, catering primarily to snowmobilers. This would extend the cash flow by a couple of months.

Donna Pohl, Daily Operations Manager, Major Domo - Donna's full-time, year-round job is to fill the seats on the boat - to have as many sold-out cruises and private charters as possible between June and October. She is busy all year updating the website, posting on various social media platforms, updating brochures and other collateral material and placing ads in print and digital media. During the off-season she recruits staff, answers the phone, books private charters for weddings and other happy celebrations, confirms group cruises, fulfills gift certificate orders, attends group travel trade shows, books moonlight cruise musicians and updates the Personnel Handbook. As a receptive operator she creates one-day and multi-day itineraries for groups of 20 or more. In January, Donna and key staff brainstorm new special events for the coming season, ways to tweak the system to make it better, and review what worked and what didn't work the last season. In late May and early June, Donna's on the road doing brochure distribution. During the cruising season, June through October, Donna is daily operations manager. She oversees staff training, does scheduling, conducts cleaning and dining room set-up inspections before boarding, boards guests, does dinner food check with chef before sailing. She's in charge of timing during a cruise, expediting food service, and greeting guests before, during and after a cruise.

Executive Chef Jim Pohl - People are always amazed at the quality of food that comes out of the tiny galley on the WW Durant. And the quantity! Some say it's like a magician who just keeps pulling scarves out of his sleeve! Who is responsible for this magic act? James Dean Pohl, Dean and Donna's younger son and number three child. Jim has been executive chef on the Durant for 17 years. Jim is 36 years old so that's almost half his life! He has learned from some great chefs who worked for Raquette Lake Navigation during Jim's youth. We salute Chef Gene Marks in particular. Chef Gene was impressed with Jim's talent, drive and focus and encouraged him to work in the culinary field. In fact, it was his recommendation, himself a graduate of the CIA, that probably sealed Jim's acceptance at the prestigious Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park.

Our Beverage Manager, Head Bartender, and Special Events Coordinator Rachel Caroline Pohl - Dean and Donna's older daughter and second child, approaches her job with passion and creativity. Her adventurous spirit has been known to inspire some excellent mixology on the Durant. Space on the Durant is extremely limited. Next to the guests the most precious thing on the boat is space! Rachel tackles this space issue by offering a rotating selection of wines, beers and spirits - one that is smartly curated and filled with whimsical surprises. Her selection of wines reflects the guests' tastes, Chef Jim's specials and what's new. Rachel has worked on the boat in some capacity since the beginning, for 26 years. She earned her Certification from the International Wine Guild headquartered in Denver, Colorado "one of the top five professional wine schools in the US for professional wine education." (Food & Wine, May, 2011) Her other duties include: • Develops and maintains the Durant's wine, spirits and beer lists, as well as its cocktail program • Leads wine and beer tastings; develops education programs for guests and staff • Collaborates with her salesmen and Chef Jim to develop pairing menus for special event wine and beer pairing dinners • Reaches out to different entertainers to book special events on the Durant such as our famous Jimmy Buffet cruise, murder mystery cruise & comedy cruise.

When the Pohls were asked why they love being a part of the community, they replied, "We love being part of the Central Adirondack tourism services community because together we ARE better. Our business community can offer the visitor a huge variety of services, at reasonable prices. We are able to promote and advertise those services because we work together and can take advantage of such cost saving measures as block booking and co-op advertising. Working together for the good of the consumer and ultimately our own good, we can make referrals to neighboring businesses, share ideas and insights, create and execute events, even share staff in desperate situations. A rising tide floats all boats!"

Donna also says, "We've been blessed with many things: good health; four amazing children with different talents and interests, all contributing to earning a living as a family; wonderful employees; loyal customers; tourism partners who get it; vendors who are flexible. We are grateful to all who have helped us get to where we are now. Stay tuned and check in with us often. We're always looking for new opportunities! And they're there!"

Visit their website at www.RaquetteLakeNavigation.com