Superior Marine Service Takes Over Historic A&A Motel

GLENMOOR, Ohio — What once served as a respite for travelers along the historic Lincoln Highway will soon be part of a booming marine service business.

Since the 1940s, when state Route 11 didn’t exist and the only way to easily travel from Mahoning County to the Ohio River and points beyond was southbound on the Lincoln Highway, the A&A Motel sat ready to welcome travelers at the junction of East Liverpool and Y&O roads.

The popular stop-off consisted of a number of tiny cabins in a row and a house that served as the office and home for the owners. In recent weeks, the most recent owner, Patrice Watkin, struck a deal to sell the iconic tourist spot to Jason and Jessica Moore, owners of Superior Marine Services, 16224 East Liverpool Road, who plan to expand their five-year-old business onto the property that sits right next to their business.

Watkin’s late husband, Donald, inherited the motel business from his uncle Frank Chetwyn who had purchased the property in the 1940s not long after the cabins were built, according to Donald’s cousin David Mumaw.

“I can remember going out there in the late 40s when it was really in its prime. The country was good; it had the potteries and the steel mills. Everything was booming. Lincoln was the main highway. My aunt and uncle had regular customers,” Mumaw recalled.

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Gallery images include construction work being done on the site of the former A&A Motel, and the exterior of Superior Marine Services.

He said traveling salesmen were plentiful as were gamblers headed for Waterford Race Track, now known as Mountaineer Gaming Resort in Newell, W.Va.

“It was quite a business. My aunt took care of all the cleaning and she became a mentor to me. I would go and help her,” Mumaw recollected, saying he often rode his bicycle from his home in downtown East Liverpool to help out at the motel.

Mumaw said guests would have their meals at Hoge’s Restaurant, which is still in operation next door, and his aunt and uncle – who resided in the small house in front of the row of cabins – could close off a portion of their home allowing guests to stay when the cabins became full.

“My mother and dad would go out and play cards. They would have chairs all lined up outside the cabins. (The guests) would be strangers, but before they left, they would all be friends,” Mumaw said.

Mumaw eventually became an East Liverpool police officer and, after retirement, a Municipal Court bailiff. He could not recall when the motel actually closed but said the number of guests slowed in the 1960s when other businesses in the area began faltering. Not long afterward, Route 11 was also completed, re-routing most of the heavy traffic that once congested the road past the A&A Motel.

Patrice Watkin said that, while her husband had kept the motel property out of respect for his uncle, the cabins had deteriorated and were no longer viable for guests. After her husband’s death in 2020, Watkin contacted Moore who had expressed interest in buying the property to expand his business and a deal was struck.

In the last week, work began to demolish the cabins and begin preparing the property for Moore’s expansion.

A Hookstown, Pa. native, Moore grew up helping his father do mechanical work from the age of 13 and he said he “kind of just fell into” working on boats at the age of 19 when he saw a sign in Beaver County, Pa. advertising for a marine mechanic.

He knocked on the door and asked, “What’s this boat stuff about?”

After the shop owner opened up a boat motor to show him, Moore said, “This is what I know. I can do this forever.”

After working there for a couple years, during a slow time in the winter, Moore sold his boat and car and took a train ride to California where he stayed the next 15 years in the Marina Del Ray and Long Beach areas, honing his marine mechanic skills and learning from the experts.

“I went to California because I wanted to learn from professionals. Here, you only learn as much as the guy ahead of you. If you don’t know the new stuff out there, you only know the old product,” he said. After meeting and marrying his wife Jessica – a Lorain, Ohio native – in California, they moved back to this area where he worked for his former boss with the idea of taking over the shop.

Jessica and Jason Moore, co-owners of Superior Marine Services.

When that didn’t pan out, Moore decided to go out on his own, having seen the success he had had in Pennsylvania. He considered locations in Beaver County and East Liverpool but found the permitting and zoning process too stringent. So he approached St. Clair Township officials, who he said “were easiest to deal with,” and the business was launched in September 2017.

Within two years, Moore purchased property across the road for storage of boats he had shrink-wrapped for winter storage, and now, two years later, almost to the date, he is purchasing this new property.

“I never would have dreamed I could do this in five years, maybe 10 to 15, but not five,” he marveled, adding, ” I knew in my gut boats were going to come from outside this area. I knew they were going to come from Pittsburgh, from Erie, from Wheeling. We get them from all over the place. People are driving past four or five different dealerships to get here.”

“Our slogan is, ‘Your boat, our reputation.’ He has so much passion for his industry and compassion for his customers,” adds Jessica Moore. “He won’t put something on a boat that’s not safe. He always does it as though me and the kids are going to be on that boat.”

Currently, Superior Marine Services is a full service boat repair shop with repairs accounting for about 90% of its business with a focus on boats no older than 1990, although Moore said he does make exceptions.

A certified mechanic for Mercury, Volvo, Penta and Tohatsu motors, Moore is awaiting word on becoming a Mercury dealership as well. Last year, more than 60 motors were sold with about a dozen sold already this year.

In addition, he and his crew, which includes his wife and three mechanics, shrink wrap an average of 300 boats per year with some stored on site. The business also sells a variety of safety items, parts, accessories, fun items for boaters and other products.

The addition of the former motel property will allow for more boat storage, Moore said.

“I’ve never even advertised boat storage (previously) because I ran out of room. It will be like a five-acre facility when we’re done.”

Plans call for using the existing building strictly as a work center and constructing a second building on the new property for a showroom, possibly adding the sale of new boats to the business’ inventory.

With revenue of about $1.1 million in 2021, Moore is confident his business has taken off but said, “If you treat people right, people treat you right.”

Reflecting on that day he happened to see the sign advertising for a marine mechanic, Moore said, “I got so lucky driving by that place.”

Superior Marine Services can be reached at 330-708-5200 and is open Monday to Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., Saturday, 8 a.m. to noon, and closed Sunday.

Pictured at top: The cabins on the site of the former A&A Motel have since been razed to expand Superior Marine Services’ business to the property.

Copyright 2024 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.