Big Dreams Become Reality with Oak Hill Outdoor Marina
Play, Shop, and Party LOAKAL!
Cultivating an ongoing family passion for entrepreneurship and the joy of outdoors, Oak Hill President and Owners Tim and Jennifer Sather have taken a childhood passion and dreamed big with Oak Hill Outdoor and Marina.
Originally from Round Lake, MN, Tim has fond memories of helping deliver Sathers Candy to local shops with his father. In high school, he worked the Okoboji docks with his best man and now Oak Hill General Manager Collin Clark.
“While working hard together through middle school and high school on the docks, Collin and I became really good friends. We tied up boats and pumped a lot of gas,” Tim said. “I always knew I wanted to be in the boating industry!”
After both Tim and Jen graduated from Sioux Valley-Round Lake-Brewster, Tim earned a degree in marine technology from WyoTech in Florida. A few years later, he opened a boat dealership near Lexington, Kentucky, but always considered returning to the place he grew up.
“At that stage, we were looking to expand and looking at different marina options in the Carolinas, South Dakota, and Florida,” Jen shared. “Growing up here, you compare it to every other place, and you quickly discover there is nothing quite like Okoboji anywhere else. What is beautiful about this area is that it’s not just boating, it’s also a tourist area.”
With a flip of a coin, the couple decided between an interest in North Carolina and moving back to the Iowa Great Lakes area. In 2013, Tim accepted an offer to join the Oak Hill Marina team and was excited to learn more about leadership and the industry from then Oak Hill Marina owner Phil Miklo.
“I had talked to Phil on the phone and had faxed my resume, but the first time I met Phil in person was the first day on the job,” Tim said. “I was hired as a service manager but also with an interest of later purchasing the business. Phil is a great businessman and very intelligent. I highly respect him and have appreciated his investment in me, as well as connecting me with his network in the boating industry.
Oak Hill Marina has grown from a little, remodeled convenience store/restaurant along Highway 71 into a state-of-the-art marina that has received industry-wide recognition. Long-time owner Phil Miklo first bought the boat dealership in 1992, where he and his wife Teresa built the business from the ground up. Located on the shores of Minnewashta Lake, the current Oak Hill Marina facility was built in 2004, with an enlarged rental shop and showroom.
Tim worked as Oak Hill’s Service Manager for two years and completed Spader Leadership Development under the guidance of Miklo, before pursuing a joint ownership agreement in 2015.
“It’s really been a dream come true, one step at a time,” Tim said.
Oak Hill Outdoor
The Oak Hill team is always churning out ideas. While this isn’t an uncommon trait amongst many entrepreneurs, quick action has become the norm for the group.
“We are always telling people who ask about project timelines, ‘We wanted it done yesterday!’” Jen said. “We have a team that works really well together to accomplish goals and dreams.”
In 2016, Tim was quickly realizing Oak Hill needed more space. This dream became reality when the property on the corner of Highway 86 in Milford became available for sale. At the time, multiple businesses were using the former Cycle Company building for different uses.
“When we first toured, it was really a maze to get through. Polaris was using it to store motorcycles, GrapeTree Medical Staffing was leasing one corner for offices and Piccadilly Pizza was on the north side. Tim was so excited about the options; I had to work hard to envision the possibilities,” Jen shared.
“Once we purchased the space, my imagination was filled with ideas, but I think it took two weeks to clean up twenty years of forklift dust,” he added. “We began to make improvements little by little.”
In 2018, the idea for Oak Hill Outdoor really came to life. Rather than just an overflow for boats, inch by inch the large space was transformed into northwest Iowa’s premier sporting goods outfitter.
For instance, the staff took turns creating burnt wood one winter – one board at a time – to cover a wall in the back.
“We liked how it looked, so we kept going!” Tim said.
The fireplace displayed in the northeast corner; Tim purchased from the Inn auction in 2018. At the time, he didn’t know where it would go, but during the renovation process, they built a beautiful wall to showcase the fireplace. The surrounding walls are covered with memories of special people and places like Crandall’s Beach on Big Spirit to countless animal mounts and pictures of Tim’s family and friends.
“My grandfather Kenny Sather really enriched my conservation roots, with his former waterfowl station in Round Lake,” Tim said. “Our family passion for outdoors continues to live on and much of it is highlighted on these walls.”
Near the fireplace, two of Tim’s family 1960’s Amphicar’s are displayed, vehicles his grandfather and father once gave out as prizes for Sather Cookie Co. sales accounts.
“Many displayed items are a glimpse into our family history,” he added.
Aside from being a premier boat dealer in the Iowa Great Lakes region, Oak Hill Outdoor has also become home for desired needs in powersports, fishing, and hunting, as well as home to The Hook Up, the newest bait and tackle dealer. There is a spot filled with beautiful home décor, as well as countless clothing options and swimming gear. This winter, they opened “Drakes,” a full-service bar in the center of the store. There are also several future endeavors already in the works.
“Drakes is named after our 15-year-old red golden retriever ‘Drake,’ who we got during college. He’s a beautiful hunting dog that has travelled the world and competed in countless hunting trials from Canada to the south, holding a special place in our family,” Jen shared. “Not only is he Tim’s best buddy, but he’s also an amazing kids’ dog and loves our girls.”
The goal of Drakes was to not only increase door swings but to offer the community another option to gather as friends and family in a larger space.
“We are offering live music, as well as basic bar food,” Collin said. “It’s becoming the new favorite place in the area for people to come in and relax. During Winter Games, we had over 1,000 people come in for our live music night.”
Besides live music on the weekends, Oak Hill Outdoor also hosts different group events for the DNR or Pheasants Forever, as well as ongoing sessions from their Oak Hill Pro Staff Chris Miller and Ryan Hale.
“We want to grow their exposure and provide an avenue for them to share their fishing knowledge with the area,” Collin said.
Other LOAKAL music and event line-ups will be featured throughout summer, allowing a place for people of all ages to have fun and learn.
“Oak Hill is about having fun – on the lake, land, and for leisure,” Jen said. “This encompasses one reason why Tim and I came back to the Iowa Great Lakes area.”