The Hoffmann Family of Companies and Shepler’s Mackinac Island Ferry jointly announced today its partnership in a move designed to ensure that the company (Shepler’s) continues its family based legacy and to meet the demands of its customers and Mackinac Island’s booming tourism industry far into the future.
The partnership of the two families is the first instance in the Shepler’s distinguished 77-year history that the company has sought additions to the company. “Now, at this point in time, this move was right for both the Shepler family and our company,” said Shepler’s President, Chris Shepler.
“We’ve been approached many times by potential partners, but never before have we connected both personally and professionally with a family that so closely identifies with Shepler’s commitment to first-class service for every guest, every day,” Shepler said.
The Naples, Florida-based Hoffmann Family of Companies owns and operates an additional nine family-oriented cruises and vessels throughout the United States such as the Naples Princess in Naples, Florida. The Miss Augusta in Missouri Wine Country and the Volunteer Princess in Knoxville,Tennessee. In addition to their boats, the family also owns a number of companies in the hospitality and entertainment segment, agriculture, professional services, golf, commercial real estate, and manufacturing and distribution.
“We pride ourselves on partnering with thriving companies where we can add value, not reinvent the wheel,” said founder, David Hoffmann. “Mackinac Island is a special place to us where we’ve visited often, and Shepler’s Mackinac Island Ferry is a unique part of the magical journey to Michigan’s crown jewel. We want to be part of Shepler’s continuing to do what it does best.”
Shepler and his brother Billy Shepler, who serves as fleet captain, will continue to be involved in the day-to-day operation of the company. They will also continue to be partial owners. “Under the new partnership, the current company name and branding will remain the same. Additionally, all cast members will retain their positions.” Shepler added.
Shepler’s has invested more than $13 million in upgrades since 2015 to ensure people traveling to the island have the best possible experience, Shepler said, adding that more will likely be needed to meet demand. Recent investments include:
- $4 million William Richard (newest ferry launched in 2020)
- $3.8 million Miss Margy (new ferry launched in 2018)
- $3.4 million Mackinac Island dock expansion (2019)
- $2 million Mackinaw City parking
“My brother and I will eventually retire someday, and we have aligned with a partner who is vested in ensuring the Shepler legacy lives on while remaining true to our enduring commitment to service for the next generations of Mackinac Island visitors.”
“Under the new partnership we now have a like minded family who is willing to continue to make capital investments,” Shepler said. “That means when upgrades or improvements are needed or equipment needs to be repaired or purchased as the region’s tourism grows, capital will be easier to access. This is the best route to guarantee financial security and strength for the company for many years to come.”
Although the pandemic initially put a damper on Mackinac Island tourism, visits to the island have steadily increased. Historically more than one million people visit the island annually with visitor estimates for 2021 breaking the previous 2019 record. Mackinac Island was named the most popular summer destination in the country in 2018 by the travel website TripAdvisor, and revenues from hotel rooms were up 66 percent between 2011 and 2018.
Shepler’s Mackinac Island Ferry celebrated its 77th season which began in April of 2021. Bill Shepler’s father, Captain William H. Shepler, first opened a snack shop catering to Mackinaw City tourists in 1945, and soon saw the potential in transporting them to Mackinac Island via speed boat. Today Shepler’s transports more people than any other line daily during the summer season. Shepler’s 78th season is scheduled to begin on April 21, 2022.