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On the Water

How to beat the heat with the Colorado Boat Center

Memories are the building blocks of the future. Cherished moments are recreated and repurposed so that loved ones can experience them season after season, year after year. The Smith family has grown a booming business off of this very premise.

The Colorado Boat Company (CBC) was founded in 1988 by Tom Smith. He and his family have a history of being avid boaters and have spent countless weekends (and often, weekdays) out on the water. When the time came to get a new boat cover, it was outrageously expensive to buy one. So, Tom bought a commercial sewing machine for $600 and sewed his own. The personal experience was a success and eventually evolved into a business. After 21 years of managing grocery stores and being laid off four times during the span of three years, Tom pivoted his career direction and started the Colorado Boat Center.

From fishing boats to pontoon boats, the CBC has a diverse inventory for a variety of hobbies and tastes. The Johnstown business has received several awards, including ranking as number 18 on Boating Industry’s top 100 dealers and being the first certified dealership in the state of Colorado.

The CBC is a family business and a business family. Tom and his wife, Nancy, are in the process of completely handing over business operations to their children, Ashley and Eric. The succession plan will be completed in full in two years. Whereas he is excited for more responsibility, Eric makes no mistake about his roots.

“My dad is the face and backbone of the business. It is his heart and soul that has gotten us through the ups and downs,” Eric says.

The main goal of CBC is to provide experiences for families through not only selling boats, but teaching new owners everything they need to know before getting on the water. When customers go to purchase a boat, they are inside for three to five hours so they can learn key principles like how to back up the boat, get it to the lake, and, of course, how to drive it. They even offer on-water classes.

Eric remembers childhood days that were full to the brim with fun on the lake. His family would wake up at the crack of dawn to get on the water. The mornings were full of activities like water skiing and tubing. By the time the sun heated up the water, they would find a place to dock and daze. In the evenings they cooked and shared meals together. 

Admittedly, a boat is not a huge space. But, it is a gathering spot. The close proximity allows friends and family to truly bond. And with a full lake day, there’s time for contemplative conversations and sun-kissed silences.

“We look towards our customers and want to help them create those experiences,” Eric says. “They’re buying an escape when they buy a boat.”

Northern Colorado has some of the best lakes in the state. Boyd Lake, Carter Lake, and Horsetooth Reservoir are great spots for people who are looking to capitalize on summertime fun. All three options are within an approximate 30 minute radius of each other. As the CBC says, staying close to home doesn’t mean that summertime is cancelled.

“Once we were able to reopen during COVID-19, everyone seemed to realize that they could get outside!” Eric says. “Boats really are the best place to socially distance.”

Even if the beaches are closed in some areas, Eric recommends finding ways to get on the water such as paddle boarding, off-shore fishing, and boating. If you’re not in a position to purchase a boat from the CBC, all three aforementioned lakes have rentals available on their respective marinas.

Though this summer may feel differently due to the Coronavirus, you can still salvage the season. Unplug from technology and jump into the water. If you need a push, your family at the Colorado Boating Center is waiting to give you a hand.