Smooth sailing for the marina owner with the suit set and blooming Lilly Pad

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Max Walraven, pictured in 2019, is the owner of Kingsland Marina. (BizSense File Photo)

While its central restaurant draws large crowds – including prominent city celebrities who shoot movies – Kingsland’s new and improved marina in Varina is enjoying lively but calmer waters after settling a legal dispute that had dragged on since years.

Max Walraven, who has led the overhaul of the 13-acre marina since purchasing a controlling interest in it three years ago, said he was preparing to start a rental and charter business of boats that would build on the momentum of its on-site dockside restaurant The Lilly Pad. .

The 38-year-old recently bought a 60-foot sport fishing yacht which he rents from the marina for couple charters and cruises. And next spring, he plans to start offering pontoons and pleasure boats for hire.

Towards the end of the first full year of activity at Lilly Pad, which he owns with his wife Karen, Walraven said, “As for the restaurant, we absolutely killed it this summer. It exceeded all of my expectations.

“It was great to see something that was an idea years ago come (be),” he said. “We continue to grow and mature, even from a culinary point of view. “

The Lilly Pad dockside restaurant is the centerpiece of Kingsland Marina. (Photos courtesy of Max Walraven)

After investing $ 250,000 in the restaurant renovation last year, Walraven said, The Lilly Pad has served 50,000 people and generated $ 2 million in business so far this year, maintaining a profit margin of ‘about 10 to 15% and employing 52 people.

“These are pretty impressive numbers considering that we are this little place 15 minutes from downtown,” he said. “We’re out of town, which tells you that people want a destination. They want to get behind the wheel and come for the experience.

Among the crowd were actors like Michael Keaton, Ewan McGregor and Mary Elizabeth Winstead, who have dined at Lilly Pad while filming in Richmond in recent months.

While in preparation before the pandemic, the restaurant capitalized on al fresco dining that has been in demand since the arrival of COVID-19.

The pandemic has also dragged the company’s boat side to Kingsland and nearby Richmond Yacht Basin, which Walraven also owns and operates.

The restaurant was busy on a recent Sunday. (Jonathan Spiers photo)

The two marinas are located near the convergence of Osborne Turnpike and Kingsland Road, about five miles south of town, and have a total of about 100 piers between them. Kingsland also offers onshore storage for no less than 40 boats.

“We were packed, both marinas, all year,” Walraven said. “More work than we knew what to do with. Even boat sales were on the rise.

“Much like the used car market, there was no stock of boats due to COVID. So people were charging more, ”he said. “A lot of businesses have been negatively affected by COVID, and we’ve had the opposite effect. “

Crowds at Lilly Pad have included movie stars such as Michael Keaton and Ewan McGregor. (Photo by Jonathan Spiers)

Boat rental on the bridge

Walraven said requests for boat rentals had also increased, prompting his decision to start a watersports division between the two marinas that would involve boat rentals, wakeboard lessons and charters.

“We have a captive audience because of the restaurant,” he said. “If I have a QR code at a table that you scan and it says, ‘This is how you rent a boat,’ why not? “

The Kryptonite, a 60-foot Ocean Yachts Sportfish vessel that it started chartering over the summer, is kicking off this side of the business. Shortly after posting about it on social media, the boat had been booked for months, Walraven said.

The 60 foot yacht that Kingsland Marina offers for charter.

“I posted a few articles on this and we booked immediately, so there is a serious demand for what I would consider high end charters in Richmond,” he said. “I think people with disposable income are looking for fun and very exclusive things to do in Richmond.”

Under maintenance, Kryptonite rents $ 350 an hour with a two-hour minimum. In addition to charters, the three-bedroom, three-bathroom yacht has been offered for couple cruises, with a private dinner from The Lilly Pad served on the ship.

Overnight stays are also offered, with crews anchoring the boat in a cove along the river, leaving and returning the next morning to pilot it again.

“It got a huge response,” Walraven said. “We were already booked until the fall.”

The sunset views along the river attract the restaurant and the marina.

Case settled

The moves come months after a lawsuit between Walraven and the former Kingsland wardens was dismissed in Henrico County Circuit Court, after the parties agreed to a monetary settlement days after the start of a jury trial.

Previous marina operators Henry and Michaele Upshur had alleged they were supposed to have early access to the property when Walraven bought a controlling stake in Kingsland in 2019. The lawsuit had sought to extend a right of first refusal and to award damages.

Walraven countered that the Upshurs had not maintained the property under the terms of their lease and were therefore in default. His counter-suit sought more than $ 1 million in damages attributed to a lack of dredging and other maintenance work on the property, among other claims.

Walraven said he couldn’t discuss the details of the settlement because it included a nondisclosure agreement between the parties. A call to Henry Upshur last week was not returned.

“What happened was we were all tired of fighting, clearly,” said Walraven. “Nothing like five or six days of giving evidence to really smash everyone to a pulp.” “

With the lawsuit behind him, Walraven said he looks forward to what the future holds for Kingsland and The Lilly Pad. In January, he said he would have full ownership of the marina as he plans to buy out the 10 percent stake from minority owner Merritt Foster III.

“I had sky-high construction costs at the start, but it’s a good life,” Walraven said. “The restaurant industry, the struggle is so real. But it is enriching. Ultimately, you are selling smiles. They buy you great food, watch the sunsets, and hang out on the river so it’s rewarding.

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