Robb and Laura Romp were planning on spending time with friends when they were invited to dinner at the Lagoons in Vermillion, Ohio, in 1956. What they walked away with was a legacy of a marina that would be kept in the family for years to come.
Across the street from their friends’ home sat a marsh and an empty lot. However, Robb didn’t see it like that. He saw potential. He bought the land and went straight to work, his whole family by his side. Through sweat, elbow grease, and determination, the Romp family opened Romp’s Lake Erie Marina one year later in 1957.
According to John Gabriel, co-owner of Romp’s, life at the marina has had its ups and downs over the years. There were a number of devastating events that could have caused the business to permanently shut its doors.
In 1969 a terrible flood almost wiped them off the map. This was before flood insurance, but the Romp family chose to put up a fight and rebuild after the devastation.
However, that wasn’t the end of difficult times for Romps’ Marina. There was the gas shortage in the ‘70s, plus the business and the economic collapse of 2008, which impacted all boaters, not just those in the Great Lakes region.
“That was just a terrible time for boaters,” Gabriel stated. “There was no ‘cash for clunkers’ in the boat industry. We were on our own; you know, sink or swim. Though there are hard times, the good times make up for it.”
Despite all of the difficulties, Robb and Laura carried on with fearless determination until they were ready to pass on the baton. Ownership of the marina was passed into the hands of Gabriel, his wife, and their brother-in-law Tom.
Together, they are the third generation family owners of Romp’s. Robb and Laura were the grandparents of Tom and John’s wife. The three had been stockholders in the marina for 30 years, but started calling the shots in the early ‘90s.
Bill Romp, the second owner, was working on retirement when he reached out to Gabriel. Though he had little experience, he was determined to make it work. Bill helped Gabriel, showing him that this was more than just a job – it was a fun experience.
“This isn’t like a lot of jobs where you’re dealing with people who are stressed or waiting in line,” Gabriel said. “Here, people come to relax, and the vast majority of them are having fun, laughing, and enjoying the sun. They’re with family and it’s a fun environment to be in.”
Enjoying The Present
Who wouldn’t have fun with all of the great amenities the marina has to offer? From a swimming pool to an ice cream stand and snack bar, Romp’s has it all. Other amenities include a mini golf course, marine store, bathrooms and showers, boat gas stations, and a service department to work on boats.
The marina has 250 boat slips and an on-site staff seven days a week during the boating season. And even though everyone is out of the water by the first week of November, the community still gets together throughout the year. Romp’s even holds customer appreciation gatherings in the thick of winter.
“The winters are long and we don’t always get to see everyone,” Gabriel shared, “So we had a little get-together for our customers this winter to kind of refresh them and get them back in the boating spirit again.”
Other events include progressive dinners where guests go from picnic structure to picnic structure to have different meals, as well as a big soup night. Everyone brings their favorite or secret family recipe and there are occasionally games as well. The best part about Romp’s is their mission to be family-friendly.
“Any kid can come to any event we have without fear of language or other concerns along those lines,” added Gabriel. “Boaters at this marina like to have fun, and they love to have fun as a family.”
And the fun doesn’t stop there! From walleye fishing to fine dining, Vermillion, Ohio, is the place to be. Walleye fishing in Vermillion brings people from as far away as Oklahoma to Romp’s Marina.
Along with events offered at the marina, the town offers a number of activities for visiting boaters. Restaurants such as Chez François, which is nationally ranked as one of the best restaurants in the country, are perfect for those passing through. There are also events like the Wooly Bear Festival (similar to Groundhog Day), Ohio’s biggest one-day festival, and “Third Thursday” where a wide variety of musical talent come together and perform up and down the downtown area.
If an oasis and trip to remember are what you’re looking for, look no farther than Vermillion, Ohio, home to Romp’s Lake Erie Marina and your next big adventure.
For More Information:
Romp’s Lake Erie Marina
5055 Liberty Ave
Vermilion OH 44089