Learning Your A&B’s
During a 29 year legal career, I was fortunate to work in a couple of really neat places. In the early ‘70’s, I started that career as a law clerk and, later, an attorney working in a firm that occupied a townhouse in what was then known as the “Golden Triangle” of the D.C. downtown business district – south of Dupont Circle, bordered by Connecticut Avenue, M Street, and 19th Street. Easy walking distance to multiple bars, restaurants and clubs for lunch/happy hour/night-life diversions. Later, a new job in Long Beach, California, in an ultra-modern high-rise, gave me a picture window overlooking Long Beach Harbor, the Queen Mary and the Pacific, with an unobstructed view of the Long Beach Arena while the artist Wyland painted the exterior with one of his famed sealife murals!
Obviously, pretty cool places. However, by the time you read this, I will have completed my 9th year in the best place I’ve ever worked or ever hoped to – Slip 2 at the A&B Marina in Key West. What makes it so great? Several things instantly come to mind. Obviously, the weather. The marina facilities are top-notch. It’s a visually spectacular location, with some of the world’s nicest yachts on display on a rotating basis. There are 6 other high quality charter boats here – Outer Limits, Premium Time, Mr. Z, Triple Time, Too Lethal (a center console), and Shadow Caster (a “flats” boat), which allows you to do any kind of fishing that can be done in the Keys. We also have the Parawest parasail boat as well. The people watching is spectacular, as we are on the west end of the famed Harborwalk, with 5 eating/drinking establishments – A&B Lobster House (with a cigar bar - Berlin’s), Alonzo’s, the White Tarpon, The Commodore, and the Boathouse - all on premises and within 20 yards of our boat. Yet another - the Conch Republic Seafood Co. - is less than 50 yards away. Duval Street, Mallory Square and the cruise ship docks are all within 2 to 3 blocks. Can’t beat the people-meeting, booking and recreational opportunities that gives us.
But what really makes this the best job location I’ve ever had are the people who work around and with me. That includes the staffs in those surrounding businesses. All wonderful neighbors. Most importantly, however, it includes the marina staff itself– General Manager/Head Dockmaster Mark Miller and his assistants Bill Buchholz, Rob Brubacher, and Jay Knostman. I’ve come to know, like and respect each of them, and greatly enjoy dealing/bantering with them on a daily basis. They each bring a unique background and personality to the job, but they all contribute harmoniously to make our marina the great place it is. So, I thought that it was about time you got to learn something about them so you know why I wouldn’t want to work anywhere else and why you should plan on spending some time with them on your next boating visit to our Key West paradise.
Mark Miller was an Assistant Dockmaster here when I bought the old “Fatal Attraction” nine years ago to first make this my workplace. I’ve watched him gracefully grow into and with his current position as General Manager/Head Dockmaster, and have seen the marina function smoothly under his guidance.
As with many Keys transplants, Mark’s earlier life gave no real hint that he’d be where he is today. Originally from Kansas, he left college to open a computer store with a partner, grew to 3 stores, and evolved that into a small business technical consulting firm. After selling that business, and drawn by the same love of the sea that grips us all here, he moved to our state; got a captain’s license; became a dive instructor; and taught scuba; before morphing into a dockmaster position here.
Mark is married, describing his wife Suki as the “most beautful woman in the world” and someone who “keeps his spirit strong and healthy.” Suki, by the way, runs a T-shirt printing biz, “Island Image,” which supplies our popular “Hooker” T’s. He has 2 daughters and 3 grandkids from a prior marriage. Current hobbies/passions include golf, golf and golf. Oh, and did I mention that he likes golf, too!
Born in Sunset Bay, NY, Bill Buchholz liked his job here so much that he returned for a second stint after leaving last year to tend to personal family matters for his dad. Married with 3 kids, he also has a rare background for a dockmaster.. He earned a BS in accounting, then owned multiple businesses, including a fireplace retail & distribution company; a commercial, industrial & residential cleaning business; and a private investigation firm. Like Mark, his love of the water/boats led him to get his captain’s license and become involved in scuba as a divemaster. When not on duty, he still finds time to do some accounting and business consultation if the opportunity presents itself. That’s a full plate!
Why would people with Mark’s and Bill’s obvious talents/past successes work as dockmasters here? Their answer is simple. They love the water, love boats and love meeting/helping the great people coming through this marina daily. The first time I dealt with each of them, my instant reaction was “people person.” Every dealing afterward just reinforced that conclusion. Mark concedes that there is the occasional “bad apple” who can tax his normally low boiling point, but says that 99.9% of the people he meets here are the nicest folks in the world. Bill, Rob, Jay and I agree with him on that!
Rob Brubacher hails from Pittsburgh. Married with kids, he is a product of automotive and marine trade schools, formerly working as a technician in those fields. His 2 young kids, by the way, are frequent visitors to our marina and are as cute as it gets! I should also add that, like Mark, both Bill and Rob constantly mention the great ladies and partners they have as wives. When Rob isn’t on duty or spending time with his family, often at the beach or snorkeling, he still loves doing mechanical repairs. Because of his technician background, Rob can be a great resource for the boat owners here. It’s nice to have someone from whom you can get some quick advice or even some “hands on” assistance with a mechanical problem. He’s always willing to help and always does so with a great attitude and a smile. That’s probably because, just like Mark and Bill, his favorite part of the job is the constant interaction with the great and varied people that populate our marina.
How does a boy from a small farm 50 miles north of Dayton, OH, wind up as dockmaster in the Keys? Jay Knostman did it by taking his high school diploma to the “school of hard knocks” in electrical supply sales and other customer service-type jobs before the call to warmer climes led him here. Like me, a single guy with no kids, Jay loves the weather, the opportunities it affords him to be outdoors in a pair of shorts, and the melting pot of people we get to meet. In fact, he loves personal customer contact so much that his other job in Key West is as a guide for Historic Tours of America, i.e., the Old Town Trolley. Because of that, he is obviously a great resource for information about places to see and things to do while you’re in our city.
The only things that seem to put a damper on the work day of all four of these great guys are the rare cold, wet, cloudy days that deprive them and us of the sun we cherish so much and having to constantly pick up the all too numerous cigarette butts that are carelessly tossed along the boardwalk daily despite the trashcans close at hand.
As you probably noticed, the one common theme that resonates from the attitudes of these 4 great guys is a love of people and customer service. It definitely shows in the way they do their jobs.
So there you have it. Great weather, great facility, great boats, great eateries and great staff! Why the heck would you want to be anywhere else than in or near the A&B Marina when your plans bring you to Key West. Do yourself a big favor and try it. I guarantee you’ll want to come back again and again!
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