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Member Spotlight: Gage Marine
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The lunch crowd’s last stragglers offer a wave and nod as Bill Gage walks swiftly through his restaurant and selects a seat inside a plush corner booth with a picture window view of Lake Geneva. He sits down, inspects the silverware for spots (there were none) and jokes about how he inherited an eye for detail from his dad.

Bill’s first job was scrubbing boats and pumping gas at Gage Marine. As a teenager he diversified to learn other areas of the family business — all under the watchful, tutoring eye of his father. After earning a business degree and spending more than a decade in the corporate world working in New York, LA and London, Bill returned to eastern Wisconsin for what he insists was a life opportunity — not money.

“I told my dad I hope it’s the best pay cut I ever take,” Bill laughed. “I’m kidding, of course. Wisconsin is a great place, and the Midwest values are something wholesome and simple and I’m glad to be from here.”

Unexpectedly losing his dad to cancer soon after taking the reins of Gage Marine suddenly left Bill with more questions than answers, but a well-trained staff, support from fellow dealers (even “competitors”) and a drive to carry on the family legacy provided the three-legged stool he needed to succeed. 

"There were responsibilities I didn’t have my dad’s mentorship, guidance and leadership for,” Bill said. “Joining a 20 Group was helpful, and as MRAA came along I found it useful to help with processes and to make things that aren’t just forgotten — but can be repeated.” 

Today, business at Gage Marine remains strong: boat sales are up north of 12 percent year-over-year, and Bill’s outlook for 2016 and beyond is “very optimistic.”

But Bill stresses Gage Marine does far more than “just” sell boats. The sprawling lakefront property boasts an award-winning restaurant, modern service center, inviting gift shop and complete pier services. Slip vacancy has been extremely limited, and the Pier 290 Restaurant has become one of the area’s best places to find a fresh meal and welcoming company.

Oh, and lest we forget the USPS mail boat moored at Gage Marine and which this year celebrates a century of delivering parcels and packages to lake residents — 75 of which still rely on the The Walworth for their “snail mail.” 

Gage Marine recently hosted a 100th birthday party for the historic vessel, and Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo visited Gage Marine after the celebration for a special celebrity jump. (click here to see more)

Gage Marine has been a member of MRAA since 1988, and Bill stressed the online resources, professional network and “having someone answer the phone when you call” make the annual decision to renew one of the easiest he makes during the course of a year.

“Joining MRAA may not guarantee your success, but I believe it’s a great part of it,” Bill said. “We find, through MRAA, resources that we can fall back on and help train our staff, stay in business and ultimately being as successful as we can be.”