New owner at High Rock Boat and Ski
By Shelley Smith
Twenty-seven years ago Dave Arey opened the High Rock Boat and Ski Club on High Rock Lake. Over the years there have been many changes, but new owner Curt Cloutier is in it for the long haul. And Arey is right beside him, helping.
Arey opened the Boat and Ski Club in 1982.
“I built the building as a warehouse for my video game business,” said Arey. “When I sold the business, all of my friends started gathering here. I got tired of feeding them all, so I started making them pay.”
Arey is thrilled to have Cloutier, who took over operations in March, running the place.
“He does a good job,” said Arey. “I’m tickled to death for him. He has great ideas for this place.”
Cloutier, of Lexington, has been a member of the club for the past 16 years, and booked his own parties there in the past.
“When this place came up for sale last summer, Dave thought I’d be a good candidate,” said Cloutier. “I had an interest, and he gave me the boost to take over this place.”
The club was closed for nine months before Cloutier took over, and he called back many of its previous employees.
“There are a lot of faces here that have been here forever,” he said, noting that he wanted to bring back the old spirit of the club. With both Arey and Cloutier at the club, Cloutier calls the revamped club “a little bit of the new and the old.
“I really enjoy being here,” he said. “I enjoy mingling with the customers.
“It’s unreal to see the very first customers still coming in every week. I think they enjoy the atmosphere and enjoy the food. And they can get here by water.”
During the summer Cloutier said it’s common to see two dozen boats floating at the club’s dock. Members come from all over, including the Davidson County side of High Rock Lake. The Fourth of July celebration is the biggest event of the year.
Although the club slows down in the winter, Cloutier is trying to keep it alive.
Every Friday there is a DJ who plays mostly beach music. On Saturdays bands usually play.
Although the club is private, membership is only $15 a year, and there are around 1,500 members.
“You can come in the door once for free,” said Cloutier. “But we feel sure that after your first experience you’ll want to keep coming back.
“It’s an atmosphere where everyone knows everyone.”
The Boat and Ski Club features dinner specials nightly, and offers a large salad bar with homemade dressings, steak dinners, seafood and chicken. Cloutier said a local favorite is their shrimp and grits special.
The Friday after Thanksgiving, Nov. 27, Cloutier is planning the Boat and Ski Club’s First Annual After Thanksgiving Bash, with doors opening at 7:30 p.m. Cloutier plans to make the party an annual event.
“People go out downtown the night before Thanksgiving, and I wanted to offer something for the Friday after,” said Cloutier. “There are so many people that don’t know we’re here. And we’re only seven miles from town.”
The bash will feature an appetizer buffet from 8 p.m. until 10 p.m., and a breakfast buffet beginning at 12 a.m. The Aristocrats will begin playing at 8:30 p.m. The first 50 people through the door will receive a free T-shirt. Tickets are available for $10 in advance and $15 at the door.
“We’re looking to do this every year,” said Cloutier.
On New Year’s Eve, the club is hosting another party, featuring the band Rocking Horse.
With two full-service bars, more than four dining areas, and an occupancy of 250 people, the Boat and Ski Club can accommodate anything and anyone.
“This time of the year we’re booking Christmas parties,” said Cloutier. “But we also book birthday parties, family and class reunions.
“There’s no party too big or too small.”
The club is also open on Monday nights for Monday Night Football, with more than eight televisions for viewing.
“It’s been a big hit this year,” said Cloutier.
Kathy Brooks has been the office manager from the very beginning.
“It’s such a great place to be,” said Brooks. “Curt and Dave are the best combination we’ve had in many, many years. It’s great to have new ideas and old experience working together.
“It’s great that you can walk in and see more than 30 people that you know. And if you’re new, it won’t be too long before you know everyone.”
As far as the food goes, Brooks said that everything on the menu is good.
“You’d think that after you’ve worked at a place for a while you’d get tired of the food, but you don’t,” she said. “It’s really a one-of-a-kind place.”
Keith Scoggins, of Lexington, has been a member for seven or eight years, and enjoys the laid-back and drama-free atmosphere of the club.
“I can come by boat and it takes about 12 minutes,” said Scoggins.
Carol Ray of Lexington has been a member for 20 or more years.
“It’s fun, it’s on the water, and the food is great,” said Ray. “Curt’s the best, and there’s never any trouble here.”
Dale and Marcell Lomax of Lexington have both been members for at least 20 years.
“We have a lot of friends who come here, and it’s a great social environment,” said Marcell Lomax. “It’s a place to get away from it all. The food is great, the owner is fantastic, and the staff is great, too.”
“When you walk in the door, you don’t have to ask for a beer, they already know what you want and have it waiting for you,” said Dale Lomax. “It’s like Cheers ó everyone knows your name.”
Sissy Graham of Salisbury has been the bartender at the Boat and Ski Club for 13 years.
“This change has been the best change,” said Graham. “Curt is willing to go out there and try new things and has brought in more people. It seems like anything he does is a success.
“It’s one big family here, that’s what makes it nice. Everyone helps each other out.”
The High Rock Boat and Ski Club is open Wednesdays through Saturdays from 6 p.m. until the last customer leaves. Monday night football begins at 7 p.m.
The club offers inside dining and outside dining, two bars and a dance floor, which is used during the week for local shag dancing practice.
“I’d like to get this place to boom like it did years ago,” said Cloutier. “There’s no place on the lake like this. It’s one of a kind.
“I’m here for the long haul. I just want to see this place grow and grow for years.”
For more information on the High Rock Boat and Ski Club, visit their Web site at www.theboatandskiclub.com.