Tonawanda News

May 12, 2013

River cruise business ready to set sail

By Michael Regan
The Tonawanda News

Tonawanda News — Two Grand Island residents, who will launch a tour boat company along the Niagara River this summer, steamed through North Tonawanda on a foggy Thursday morning with their newest acquisition, a 42-foot Harker Island Custom, a vessel they plan on using for organized trips and private parties this summer, which they hope will add another layer to the area’s slowly evolving portfolio of tourist offerings. 

Robin Hoch and Tom Hauser, both avid boaters, said a few informal conversations at a yacht club in January led to a quick decision to pursue the business concept, with Niagara River Cruises set to sail in the coming weeks. 

“It was really both of us having the same vision,” Hauser said. “We were both thinking about this for years. Whenever we take people out on our boats, they’d say they never knew this existed. Seeing it from the water provides such a different prospective. It’s an experience for them.” 

As it happened, they both shared the same idea after separate trips to Florida and Baltimore, where, they said they saw tour companies taking advantage of access to water along with some local outfits in Buffalo. Both believed there was untapped potential to do the same in Niagara Falls and the surrounding areas. 

Coupled with their time spent on the Niagara River, and seeing its beauty firsthand  — a perspective they feel few Western New Yorkers and out-of-towners rarely get — they hatched a plan, met with government officials and businesses and made the concept a reality in a matter of weeks. 

“We’ve been on the water and we’ve seen the development in North Tonawanda,” Hauser said. “There’s tours that take place in Buffalo but people don’t really have the opportunity to have that view of the river. We though that would be a really neat thing.” 

The vessel, which they picked up in Maryland and sailed here through the Atlantic Ocean, the Hudson River and the Erie Canal for 10 days before touching down this week, will be centered at the Four Points Sheraton in Niagara Falls and the North Tonawanda’s Gateway Harbor, with stops also planned on Grand Island. The City of Tonawanda may also be added to that list as negotiations continue with officials there. 

The North Tonawanda City Council agreed to lease a space across from the Remington Tavern and Seafood Exchange, with close proximity to the downtown corridor. 

Hoch and Hauser said they will make slight modifications to the vessel, including a name change and some polishing, with a push to make it ready for action by the end of the month. 

“We’re going through a re-documentation phase, a naming phase, the ‘Queen Of Peace’ is going to have her day,” Hoch said, referring to the boat’s name. “Hopefully by Memorial Day or the first week of June, we’re in business.” 

Contact reporter Michael Regan at 693-1000, ext. 4115.