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Staying Afloat at Hot Springs Marina

4 min read

Part of ensuring your business is successful comes from finding a field in which your passion can run full steam ahead. For some that means opening a restaurant because of a love of cooking; for others, it’s a tech startup brought together by a zeal for coding.

But for Gabe Galster, an affection for freedom kickstarted his journey with Hot Springs Marina.

Galster started working with his father’s prosthetic and orthotic clinic right out of college. While his father was happy with fostering the clinic as it was, Galster’s mind was set on growth. This expansion mindset was just the beginning — for the clinic and beyond.

“In order for me to be in the driver’s seat, I had to own my own business. If I made a mistake, it was on me to learn from it. I got to make the decisions that shaped my and my family’s future,” Galster said. “I knew I had varied interests … and so my interest in outdoors honestly wouldn’t allow me to be a traditional employee. That was another driving force — I could be in control, somewhat, of my schedule. Owning my own business allowed me to have that flexibility.”

From new and used boat sales to service work, Hot Springs Marina aims to meet the needs of lakegoers. (Madison Ogle)

Galster grew up around the marina, occasionally getting “run off from going down there and fishing” while visiting his grandparents, who had a small house just down the road. Over the years, he and his family kept tabs on the place. They bought the marina in 2019.

“We decided that we were going to see what we could make of this little rundown marina. We wanted to start adding services. We wanted it to become a destination,” he said.

Expanding the marina’s rental fleet and upgrading the boats came first, followed by an update on the facilities and service department.

Gabe Galster, owner of Hot Springs Marina (Madison Ogle)

“We brought in techs, we redid the service department, brought in all new tools and reorganized it,” Galster said. “We made it into a place that we’re very proud of because that is the backbone of a marina — having techs and a facility to take care of our customers. That’s what brings new customers.”

Boat rental and servicing aren’t the only things offered at Hot Springs Marina. It also offers an array of items from brands like Roxy, O’Neill and Sun Bum on the retail side, along with options for water activities like skiing and wakeboarding.

It Comes in Waves

Like with any business that relies on people getting out and about in nature, the work at Hot Springs Marina has its ebbs and flows depending on the season.

“It’s a lot like farming … you have a narrow time frame to earn all the money that you can make for the year, so budgeting is crucial. Forecasting is critical,” Galster said. “You have to maximize your opportunities when the season is there, and that’s why we offer so many services.”

Hot Springs Marina (Madison Ogle)

When the busy season comes around, Galster said “the gloves come off,” and it isn’t unusual to see some staff still hanging around at 10 p.m. to make sure everything is running smoothly and doing “whatever we have to do to take care of everyone and maximize our revenue stream.”

Galster said the team puts in a lot of work during the busy times so that, come a lull period, the marina can still operate with a full staff.

“A lot of marinas … they generally shut down for the winter, and they’ll lay people off because of the seasonality of the business,” he said. “And that’s just something that we never wanted to do. We wanted to keep good people and keep them busy and find a way to float them through.”

Healthy Fear

To run a business is to take on massive responsibility. According to Galster, it’s not unusual to feel afraid when thinking about the giant task.

“It is scary. It’s terrifying. I can’t tell you how many nights I stayed awake going through, ‘OK, what have I done? What in the world have I stepped into this time?’ And I still do that,” he said. “I’ve been doing this for a very long time, and, in my opinion, if you don’t have fear, it probably wasn’t really worth doing. You have to question yourself a little bit. You have to understand that you’re not perfect.”

On the retail side, Hot Springs Marina offers accessories for a day on the lake — from sunscreen and swimwear, to skis and wakeboards. (Madison Ogle)

The imperfections, the mistakes that come along with owning a business are just learning opportunities, according to Galster, and they shouldn’t deter anyone from truly following their passion. Ultimately, it takes time and dedication, but once the bait is right, the business — and its owner — will thrive.

“I’ve caught my share of fish, and it’s not really about the catch for me anymore. It’s about seeing other people enjoy it,” Galster said. “It’s that desire that all of my family shares in wanting to give people enjoyment, wanting to expose them to things that are a little different, a little out of the box, but it’s things that we love and want them to enjoy. We get energy from that.”

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