Livin' On Lake Time
Tom Allen’s teenage summers were spent pumping gas at a marina. That’s when he learned about a concept that has him in awe to this day. Lake Time. People who live on Lake Time can eat when they’re hungry, catch a nap when they’re tired, and swim in the moonlight if they’re feelin’ froggy. They have no place to be at any particular time. Unless, of course, it’s sunset. That’s when they don’t want to miss the view at the aptly named Sunset Marina and Resort on Dale Hollow Lake near Byrdstown.
The owners of this little Pickett County slice of heaven cater to those who live on Lake Time because they understand. “Lake Time means there is no set lunchtime, dinnertime, whatever they want to do at the moment is what they do,” Tom explained as we sat on the deck of a pontoon. "They're a very laid-back group of people. They want to be on the water so they can let their hair down, relax, and not be stressed." Tom knows what his customers need. He and his business partner invested in this former fishing camp back in 1993, and they haven't looked back. Even during the height of the pandemic when other business owners were walloped.
“The first beautiful weekend that we had last year in May, we were inundated with customers. Every weekday felt like a weekend, and every weekend felt like a holiday around here. 2021 is shaping up to be even busier.”
You don’t have to own a boat to be on Lake Time here at Sunset Marina and Resort. Turn your family into “boat people” and rent your choice of watercraft from Tom and his crew.
“We have 48 rental boats from small fishing boats to a large houseboat, and a fleet of ten rental houseboats that will sleep from 8-12 people,” Tom says. "We have pontoon boats that people love to take out on picnics and parties, and we have boats for skiing, tubing, and wakeboarding, along with six Waverunners.”
March kicked off with the Toyota Major League Fishing Tournament here at Sunset. Dale Hollow Lake is famous for the World Record (largest) small-mouth bass caught here in 1969. If Lake Time for you means throwing a line in the water, this is the place to be.
Even Lake Time people need to sleep – whenever that is – and if you’re not cruising around on a houseboat, landlubbers have their choice of rental cabins or a large four-bedroom chalet. All of the accommodations have kitchens, but when the family cook is on Lake Time, the chef at Sunset Restaurant by The Steel Coop is always serving lunch and dinner.
"This is the first year that the Steel Coop has leased our restaurant space," Tom says. "It's a very successful restaurant in Livingston, so they've kept a similar menu, and the reviews have been great!" (Editor’s note: I’ve eaten at both Steel Coops – fabulous!)
While Tom has come a long way from pumping gas for summer money, his job description for "boss" sometimes includes pumping gas. Anything to ensure that the customer maintains that "Lake Time" attitude and state of mind. Generally, Tom gets a break because once his customers get on the water, they let go of the angst. "We look at the water as a tranquilizer for people," Tom says. "It takes the edge off people the minute they see the water, get in a boat, and are floating around. It seems like time stands still – even Lake Time."
To get to this serene place, Tom must be the hustle and muscle behind the scenes. Year-round. “During the season when I’m serving customers, it’s a very long workday beginning at 6:30 a.m. We have arrivals, departures. We need to make sure their experience with us is without problems," Tom says. "I'm the one who has to solve the problems. It’s challenging in the summer months, but we also have challenges in the winter with floods, ice, snow, and wind. All of these elements impact a marina, and we have to react and make sure the boats in the boat slips are well protected.”
There is an adage that goes, "if you do what you love, you never work a day in your life." It's easy to see how much this man loves what he does for a living, so it’s safe to say that Tom Allen hasn’t worked since 1993. “Getting to invest in a business that keeps me on the water all day, every day was a Godsend; an opportunity that I couldn’t pass up. 30 years later, it’s like I just got started.” If you’re at home reading this article, or stuck behind the desk at work, take a moment to go online to sunsetmarina.com and see for yourself what Tom’s workday is all about.
Online, view Sunset Marina’s Live Lakecams featuring sunrise, and of course, the star of the marina – the sunset – anytime you need a quick escape. While you’re at it, make a plan to check out Sunset Marina and Resort in person and get on Lake Time before the summer is over.