Thursday, August 6, 2015

Romp’s Marina Article – Sept. 2, 1963

Even if you don’t own a boat, you’ve probably spent some time over the years having fun at Romp’s marina complex on U.S. Route 6 in Vermilion. Most of us at some time or another have enjoyed ice cream at Romp’s Dairy Dock, or played a game of miniature golf at Romp’s Putter Port.

But did you ever wonder about the history of Romp’s, or what that area was like before it was developed?

Well, here's an article by J. A. Greulich that tells the whole story. It appeared in the Journal on Monday, September 2, 1963.

Once A Swamp, Now Recreation Area

VERMILION – A business bought on a handshake six years ago has been parlayed into a substantial asset and is a major factor in this city becoming the "Heart of the Vacationland."

Robb Romp today heads Romp's Water Port, Inc., an expansive layout of 17 acres on the east side of the Vermilion River and fronted by Rts. 2 and 6.

The area, which originally consisted of a riverfront lot with a rundown boat house, 15 acres of swamp, store and second-floor living apartments, now has nearly a half-mile of lagoons with docking facilities for 300 boats of all sizes.

In addition to selling anything from a dinghy to a 30-foot cabin cruiser, Romp conducts an attractive marine store, operates a putt-putt golf course, an archery range, and offers a complete marine service for both visiting boaters and regular dock renters.

Currently employing 15 workers in addition to his wife, Peeps, and sons, Tom and Bill, Romp said the venture is a year-round enterprise.

"Comes the latter part of September and into October," he explained, "we're busy hauling more than 250 boats and using our facilities out of the water.

"Of these, we prepare 150 for winter storage on our own property, many being refinished and reconditioned, preparatory to next season.

"Many of those which we are unable to take care of in the fall, get partial of full fitting-out treatment starting with the first smell of spring."

While most of the water port's summer patrons come from a radius of 70 miles, with a concentration from the Cleveland metropolitan area, he said an amazing number return to the community during the winter months to shop for meats, produce, foods and even automobiles.

Born and raised on a farm near North Olmsted, where he was graduated from high school in 1937, Romp operated a farm for several years and later became a partner with the J. R. Dall auto and tractor sales in Elyria.

Learning from a friend that John Michelich wanted to sell his boat livery and bait business in Vermilion, he lost no time in meeting the seller and the deal was closed by a handshake, with the promise of a down payment. He then made plans to sell the "Dairy Queen" store he ran in Lakewood.

"Although I knew nothing about the marine business," Romp said, "I knew Vermilion as a boy, visiting summers at Linwood Park with my parents. I guess somewhere inside me there was always a longing to live here, and I've never regretted the move – nor has my family."

In addition to his business, Romp has a keen interest in community development. He is a board member of the city's Business and Industrial Association and active in the Rotary club.

A grass-covered area between the archery range and putt-putt course is made available for civic events, and during the winter months provides ice skating for miles around.

Mrs. Romp, in addition to doing the firm's book work, runs the family's completely-renovated home over the store, and personally does the cooking, laundry and housekeeping. Both boys, college students, are in charge of the Putt-putt and archery range.

Here’s the link to the Romp’s website and Facebook page.

UPDATE (August 20, 2015)
Shortly after my original post, I received this great vintage photo (below) via email from archivist and historian Dennis Lamont. Dennis is the foremost expert on the Lake Shore Electric interurban line, and generously shares his knowledge and archival photos in an effort to perpetuate its history, as well as that of the area.

Dennis wrote, "Here is a view of what Romp's looked circa 1937. The Lake Shore Electric followed today’s pole line down a big embankment to the bridge over the river. The entire embankment was eliminated when they dredged the south dock line."

In Dennis' photo, you can see U. S. Route 6 at the far right of the photo making its approach to the current bridge over the Vermilion River. You can compare this photo with the black and white one at the top of this post, which shows the same swampland from the same angle prior to development.

Special thanks to Dennis Lamont for sharing his photo.

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