MARBLEHEAD - After nearly a century of operation, the owners of the Neuman Ferry & Cruise Line have decided to sell the business, which shuttles passengers and freight between the Lake Erie coastline and two islands.
Dan Neuman, the boat line's treasurer, said yesterday that Neuman's officials have been approached by potential buyers who say they would maintain its ferry routes.
“The parties that have contacted us so far are interested in continuing service,” he said.
Neuman's offers frequent daily service from spring to fall between Marblehead and Kelleys Island. The company also runs intermittent ferries between Sandusky and North Bass Island, mostly to serve that remote isle's vineyards.
“We have made a decision to place the company for sale,” he said. “We've had several parties express interest. We have known of some interested buyers in the past, and the family felt at this time that it was in the Neumans' best interest.”
Mr. Neuman would not discuss the boat line's finances or identify the potential buyers. “I'm not going to talk about anything like that,” he said.
Neuman's has 10 full-time, year-round employees, plus about 10 seasonal full-time workers, Mr. Neuman said.
It is one of two ferry lines that runs between Marblehead and Kelleys Island. The other boat company is Palladino Boat Line of Cleveland.
Marblehead and Kelleys Island officials say the Neuman boat line is an area institution, and that they will miss the family's presence. Some expressed concern about rumors that the company will shut down next month.
“It's a seasonal operation anyhow, and the season's over, and it's my understanding that they'll be closing down for the season soon,” Marblehead Mayor Steve Plottner said. “The Neuman boat line's been a tradition here for many decades, and it kind of marks the end of an era.”
Jean Kuyoth, a Kelleys Island councilwoman, agreed.
“It's like an island icon,” she said. “The Neuman boat line has served this island for all these years, and they will be missed if they cease to operate, or discontinue as a ferry boat line.”
She said islanders are concerned about the possible loss of one of their lifelines. “I think the general feeling on the island is, yes, we're concerned,” she said. “I think we all enjoy the convenience of having both boat lines. ... We'd hate to see the end of the competition, because I think it probably kept prices down.”
Neuman's charges $9.50 per adult for a roundtrip ticket, plus $16.50 for a vehicle. Palladino charges $9 for an adult roundtrip and $16 for a vehicle.
Kelleys Island Mayor Russell Matso said the Neuman ferries appeared to be busy over the summer. “I don't believe that there was any lack of business that would sustain any financial burden to them,” he said. “Personally, I'd prefer to see both lines stay as they are, under the same ownership, but that's not my call.”
The Neuman Ferry & Cruise line has been a family outfit since Mr. Neuman's great-grandfather, John Alton Neuman, founded the company in 1907.
Dan Neuman's father, John, is the company's president and his mother, Virginia, is vice president.
“My great grandfather started this in 1907 out of Sandusky,” Dan Neuman said. “One boat. He went all over the place, to every island, Canada, the Detroit River. There's a pretty good run just going across Sandusky Bay to Bay Point and to Lakeside. It was a different world then. At that time, there was no bridge across Sandusky Bay.”
He said it wasn't easy to put the family business on the block.
“It was a difficult decision,” he said. “Our employees are really members of our family, and we have wonderful, wonderful friends on Kelleys Island, so it was difficult. But the time was right for the Neumans to make this decision.”