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Charlie's Boat(s) and Marine gets new name, new owner

Andrew Carmichael purchased the Park Rapids business from Charlie Kellner on July 15.

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Jan and Charlie Kellner shared memories recently of his 49-year career in the boat and marine business.
Robin Fish / Enterprise
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Charlie’s Boats and Marine is now Charlie’s Boat and Marine.

According to new owner Andrew Carmichael, 32, the name change was necessary so he could register the business with the Minnesota Secretary of State.

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Jan and Charlie Kellner closed the sale of Charlies Boat(s) and Marine to Andrew Carmichael on Juiy 15, 2022.
Contributed / Andrew Carmichael

The long-time Park Rapids business is located at 1401 1st St. E. Previous owner Charlie Kellner closed the sale with Carmichael on July 15.

The business does sales and service of Suzuki outboards, Forester pontoons and ShoreMaster docks and lifts, and also winterizes, shrink-wraps and stores boats for the off-season.

An employee at the store for the past six years, Carmichael recalled how he got started. “My mom called me and says, ‘You should go see if Charlie’s hiring.’ So, I went here, and he was in the back, working on a boat. I walked up to him. I said, ‘Charlie, I’m Andrew Carmichael’ – he’s bowled with my dad – and he says, ‘Yeah,’ and I says, ‘I need a job. I heard you’re hiring,’ and he’s like, ‘When can you start?’

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“He put trust in me, just by how I confronted him. ‘I need a job.’ … He told me how much he’s paying. I said, ‘I’ll take it. I just need a job.’ So, right there, I knew he was gonna be a good boss, and he’s been a great boss.”

He said he started out not knowing anything about outboards. He is now a certified technician with Evinrude and Suzuki. Though he regrets not going to school to study marine tech and business management, he learned a lot on the job and is thankful that Charlie trusted him to take the reins.

Carmichael described Kellner as the kind of businessman who is respectful and considerate to both customers and employees.

“I wish he was still here, and I think a lot of people do,” he admitted. “One of the best bosses I’ve ever had, for sure. … He’s always got a smile on his face. He’s always down-to-earth and respectful. I’ve never seen him mad.”

Since he took over, Carmichael said, “everything’s been great. If I have a question, (Charlie)’s only a phone call away. So that’s been good, too, and he stops in once or twice a week just to say hi. He was here yesterday, helped one of my mechanics on an outboard. What was great about that, I didn’t say anything. I just walked into it, and he was smiling, because he was working on an old outboard with one of the employees.

“That made me feel good, that he’s still enjoying his life, and he was able to come in here and enjoy, even if it was 10 minutes.”

A 49-year career

Charlie and his wife, Jan, shared their own feelings and memories about his career, just now coming to a close.

In a 2013 article, Charlie told the Enterprise that he quit fishing in 1973, devoting all his time to work. Asked whether he looks forward to getting back out on the lake, he said, “I’ll be looking forward to just being able to do something six days a week.”

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The business was started in 1948 as Jack’s Outboard by Jack and Sue Bonk, who sold it in 1964 to Chester and Dixie Hensel. “I worked for them the last year and a half,” said Charlie.

Later owners included Ted and Jim Dullum and Grima Johnson. It changed names a couple times, becoming Martin Sports Afloat before Charlie bought it and put his name on it in 1986.

A 1972 graduate of Nevis High School, he studied marine and small engine for a year at Alexandria Technical School. From there he went straight into the marine business. “It’s all I’ve ever done,” he said.

By 1977, Kellner was managing the store, then located on what is now the Thielen Motors sales lot on State Hwy. 34. They moved to the former location of Pier 34 in 1996, and for several years the business also sold and serviced snowmobiles and ATVs.

“Nothing came fast and quick,” he said. “The boating industry, along with everything else, has changed so much.”

Kellner said the business grew, slowly and steadily, and it paid off.

Asked what he enjoyed about the marine business, Kellner said, “The people. The customers. Day after day, year after year, the same ones. … A lot of friends.”

He said they had customers who, coming into town at the beginning of the season, would make Charlie’s their first top, before they even arrived at their cabin, just to say hello. He added that good employees, like Carmichael, are essential.

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“He is very knowledgeable, and will take it to the next step,” Kellner said of his successor.

Now that he is retired, he said he and Jan – who taught at the Nevis School for 25 years – would like to travel and catch up on things they never had a chance to do. They’re also working through some health issues.

“I never would have been able to do any of this without help from my wife,” Charlie said. “It’s been a fun haul, but it’s time to turn the reins over.”

Becoming his own boss

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Melissa and Andrew Carmichael have three kids – Cadin, 13 (at right), Cole, 10 (left) and Connor, 2.
Contributed / Andrew Carmichael

Carmichael said Kellner mentioned that he wanted to retire, and Carmichael asked him what he had planned and that he’d thought about maybe purchasing the store.

“It all just kinda fell into place,” said Carmichael.

For the past three years, he said, Kellner stepped back and let him take the reins, so he could get a feel for the business and make sure it was something he wanted.

“It’s been a long process, but we did get it done,” said Carmichael. “Pretty exciting. I’ve been in the area, and people know me. So, it’s nice to have a locally owned business that’s been here for a long time, to take that over. I think that was a big spark for me.”

Also, Carmichael said, he didn’t want have a boss anymore. “I wanted to do something on my own,” he said.

He said being fully in charge was “overwhelming the first week or two. But what helps that is I’ve got a good crew. I’ve got four guys that work here – Deon (Pederson)’s up front; I’ve got three other guys out back. … They’re hard workers.”

He added that his wife, Melissa, has started doing some bookkeeping for the business.

Other than integrating computers into the business, he said he plans to run the business pretty much as it was. “We’re still gonna rock the great service that Charlie offered for the last 49 years,” he said.

The store is having an open house from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Friday, Aug. 26 to celebrate its new beginning.

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Related Topics: BUSINESSPARK RAPIDS
Robin Fish is a staff reporter at the Park Rapids Enterprise. Contact him at rfish@parkrapidsenterprise.com or 218-252-3053.
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