Living in southeastern Wisconsin’s lake region means anticipating warm summer days spent on the water. It means heading down to the pier to ready the boat for a day of fishing, touring or tubing. It means soaking up rays while lying on the warm pier, the water lapping gently underneath, or leaning back in a deck chair on the pier in the early evening, waving to the people on the boats as they get into position for their last water skiing turns of the day.
Although it’s on the water, a pier is as much of a hub of activity as the family kitchen table.
“The pier extends the living space out from the home,” says Summerset Marine employee Laurie Hollern.
For three decades, Summerset Marine has been installing piers and boat lifts on lakes from the Illinois state line north to West Bend and from Lake Michigan west to Madison. Four crews on four barges take care of initial installation, as well as seasonal installation and removal. Summerset’s employees also provide maintenance, repair and part replacement for all pier and boat lift brands.
As the only pier and lift company with four full crews on the lakes, Summerset Marine can swiftly respond to customers’ requests.
“Thank you for getting out here so quickly,” is a comment that Summerset employees hear often from the company’s customers, says Hollern.
Larry Chapman, Summerset Marine’s founder and owner, came to his life’s work early. While a sophomore at the University of Wisconsin – Whitewater, Chapman and his friends worked summers installing and removing piers and restoring shorelines. Business grew until the pier and shoreline work became Chapman’s full-time job in 1993. In the early 2000’s, Chapman added boat sales and storage, until he sold the boat division in 2009.
Selling the boat division gave Chapman the time to work on marine construction. As the largest wood pier manufacturer in Wisconsin, Chapman knew the pitfalls of wood piers. Good lumber was increasingly hard to find, and repairs were common within eight or 10 years of installation.
“I decided there just had to be a better way,” Chapman said. His goal was to create a pier with the stability and appearance of wood, minus wood’s need for extensive maintenance, such as painting, and without its proclivity to rot. In 2014, Chapman launched Lifetime Piers LLC. Employing HDPE plastic decking, available in four colors, the piers look like wood and provide traction for safety. Unlike versions made from lumber, they are nearly maintenance free, which means no painting, sealing, or worries about splintering or rotting. An occasional cleaning with soap and water keeps the pier looking new.
Aside from the plastic decking, Summerset Marine also offers “an all-seasons solution” that Chapman says is “a high-growth part of our business.” While the Lifetime Classic piers have an aluminum frame, All Seasons pier frames are made of steel. Once installed with steel posts, the pier does not have to be removed for the winter, thus saving the customer yearly installation and removal fees.
“They’ll work pretty much anywhere in Walworth County,” Chapman says, noting that water and ice conditions rule out some parts of Geneva Lake.
At Summerset Marine’s 24,000 square foot facility in Eagle, Wisconsin, a half-hour north of Lake Geneva, customers can tour the complex that includes a showroom, office, factory and warehouse. A visit to the showroom’s design area allows residential and commercial customers to see and touch samples of the different types of piers and the various materials that can be incorporated into the plan. Finishing touches include ladders, lighting and canopies.
Four variations of Lifetime piers are on display, as are the ShoreStation, ShoreMaster and Pier Pleasure brands, for which Summerset Marine is a dealer. Some brands allow customers to create a custom design, incorporating angles and curves.
“We can help them design the best product for their lifestyle,” Chapman says.
Summerset Marine maintains a large inventory of parts in its expansive facility so that the company can quickly serve customers whose piers or lifts need repair. Part of the crews’ pier removal process includes inspection for any problems that need repair over the winter. In addition to seasonal installation and removal, Summerset offers a yearly preventive maintenance package to its customers ensuring that boat lifts remain operational for fun on the water.
With a lifetime in sailing and boating and a full career in pier construction and installation, Chapman’s work has become a family business, with his son and daughter helping him during summers.
Summerset Marine’s 35 employees have the reputation of being professional and responsive. The full-time office staff is available from 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., Monday through Friday, and by appointment on Saturdays.
262.594.3244 | summersetmarine.com
By: Susan W. Murray