For 25-plus years, the three local owners of Hope Springs Marina in Stafford County had an operating plan that worked well for them.
Jimmy Franklin, who’d previously owned businesses ranging from Cool Springs Landing to Jumpin’ Jim’s grocery, has served as the on-site manager at the marina on Aquia Creek since trio bought it at an auction on the county courthouse steps in 1993.
The other two longtime owners, Stan Dameron, a dentist in Fredericksburg and Berkley Mitchell, a local commercial real estate broker, were involved in major management and expansion decisions. But they by and large left day-to-day operations to Franklin.
This spring, when the boating season shifts into higher gear, boaters who use the marina with 200 wet slips and 300 spots in a dry storage “boatel” will notice a major change in management that kicked in last season.
The marina that’s home port for boaters from all over the state will be operated by Oasis Marinas, a management company out of Annapolis. The partners will maintain ownership.
Franklin, in a letter to customers and friends of Hope Springs Marina announcing the change, addressed his step away from day-to-day management this way:
“I’m stepping down to take time to enjoy the fruits of my labor,” he wrote. “My beautiful wife, Maria, retired in May and now it’s my turn to follow in her footsteps. We plan on doing what everyone who retires plans on doing, seeing the world and spending more time with our children and grandchildren.”
The three partners—an original fourth was bought out two years in—gathered at the marina a while back to talk about the management change and to look back at what was once a facility with just 40 in-water slips, and they don’t think any had both water and electrical service.
“What I remember right at the start was hauling endless loads of trash, rubbish, debris and derelict boats out of here,” said Franklin, who noted that the only building from the original marina to last is the one that houses the company that does boat servicing.
Dameron noted that he thought the real change the new owners brought to the marina was bringing in enough workers to make it a full-service facility, providing help in everything from docking to fueling and more.
The partners say they believe that the shift to management through Oasis Marinas is yet another step in the marina’s evolution.
Said Mitchell: “Though nothing can really replace Jimmy, we think we have a great choice in Oasis Marinas, a company that’s completely customer oriented. Their top executives come from experience with the Marriot Corporation and realize a quality marina is all about hospitality, just like the best hotels are.”
He noted that the company will soon have 18 marinas under management, ranging from some of the top marinas in Washington and Baltimore to local operations like that at Coles Point Plantation in Westmoreland County.
Dameron noted that the connection between Hope Springs and Oasis Marinas came about in a slightly unusual way: with one of the company’s principals using management of Hope Springs Marina as his master’s degree thesis.
“He was getting his MBA, and wrote his thesis about managing and operating a marina as a true hospitality venue,” said Dameron. “He came to the marina and spent a lot of time talking to Jimmy and the rest of us. The timing was really optimal because it was just after Jimmy had given us a heads-up that he was starting to think about retiring.”
Dameron said that once they began serious talks about Oasis coming in to manage the marina, “We were taken by their energy, their professionalism and their expertise.”
The trio of owners said that while it’s hard to explain to non-boaters the concept of a truly hospitable marina, boaters know it when they experience it.
Franklin said it stretches from having staffers on hand to tie up an arriving boat to having support facilities that include everything from individual/private showers and restrooms to recreational pieces that extend from extensive picnic areas to free paddleboards and kayaks for boaters.
He said the addition a few years back of a new clubhouse with the clubhouse and deck on the top floor, a ship’s store and offices on the middle floor and a gym and complete restroom and shower complex on the bottom floor was another step in that direction.
“All that and having enough people around to answer questions and provide whatever help our guests need add up to a more resort-style of marina than just a place where you tie your boat up,” said Dameron.
The partners underscored the fact that while they’re looking forward to Oasis Marina’s ideas for improvements, they have no plans to relinquish their ownership.
Franklin noted that while he may travel and have time for family, he still hopes to spend lots of time at the marina.
“I love it here so much that I plan on being here almost as much as I have always been,” he said, noting that much of that time now can be spent tinkering with his boat instead of answer the phone in the office. “I just won’t have to be here on rainy days and boring days in the winter.”