Sumerset Reborn

Bringing back a classic with new flair

July 2015 Feature Katie Burke

Sumerset Houseboats is a name you can’t miss in this industry, especially considering they were the beginning of modern-day houseboating. There’s no need to rehash what happened to the company during the “great recession,” but the former leadership ceased production during October of 2009 due to economic hard times.

But if there’s one thing we all know about houseboat builders, it’s that they will always find a way. Thoroughbred Houseboats found themselves in a position to carry on the legacy in March of 2012.

“We had a few of our dealers express interest in Sumerset boats,” says Thoroughbred Houseboats rep Shawn Heinen. “So we approached the bank and bought the naming rights and patents.”

In order to be cost effective, Thoroughbred picked up only the intellectual property and started to incorporate Sumerset builds in its current manufacturing plant.

“The name Sumerset has been synonymous with quality for many years,” says Heinen. “We were excited to carry on the legacy of this great brand and immediately started making plans to incorporate many of the same famous features seen on Sumerset boats with the new trends you find in Thoroughbred.”

One of the major changes you’ll see from an older-style Sumerset to the new look is the company has incorporated the full-glass style of Thoroughbred into the design.

Planting The Seed

“We didn’t go to him to build a boat,” laughs Lois. “But I laid the packet with the new design down on my dining room table for two weeks and looked at it every time I walked by. All of sudden I was like, ‘I have to have this boat.’” This was the beginning of Gotto's Grotto which would begin to spring into life in 2013 and debuted at the 2014 On Water Expo on Lake Cumberland.

This is exactly what caught Pete and Lois Gargotto’s attention. The couple was sitting at their home when a package arrived from Heinen. Inside included a note about how he thought they might want to check out this new look and a brochure showing what people could expect to see from Sumerset. At the time, the couple owned a 2007 Sumerset so they knew the quality of the brand, but were excited about the new design.

“We put down our deposit the second week of February, but they were pretty full and didn’t start our boat until May,” says Lois. “I took those three months to fool around with floor plans and pick out the furnishings, colors and lighting. It really gave me the chance to look at every little detail and make changes so it was the most user-friendly for us.”

Game Plan

Once you get onboard, you can tell every aspect of this boat is thought out. From the chandelier they had custom welded to the ceiling so it’s not hooked up by a chain (and therefore does not sway), to the custom-made spice shelves in the galley. There are nine televisions aboard and a stone gas fireplace with LED lights on the top deck, which you control from a switch in the hallway. The top deck includes an additional full galley, with a dishwasher and garbage disposal. The boat requires four electrical panels to operate all of the extra amenities.

Another cool feature of the boat is the curved Sumerset windows on the bow. Up top, the island on the boat seats eight people, which make it the perfect setup for drop-in dinner guests. In order to avoid fingerprints on stainless steel, the couple had custom wood panels built to cover the appliances. The cabinets have a lead glass panel for an extremely elegant look as well.

At The Office

While Pete is now retired after 23 years with Blue Shield, Lois still works for Humana as a vice president. Because the couple want to spend as much time as possible at the lake, they incorporated an office into the boat. In order to enjoy his golden years, Pete had a few things included in the design just for him. 

He had a tool room added so he could store his tools where he could quickly access them. The room has long, shallow pull-out drawers so he can lay his tools flat. He also has a closet added near the stern of the boat that was built exclusively for his fishing supplies. One of the best “Pete” additions was the extra shelf that was incorporated into the master closet so he doesn’t have to keep the bedspread on the bed when he’s at the boat without his wife. Now he can easily roll the fancy comforter and additional pillows right off the bed into the closet until Lois arrives.

The couple took possession of their boat on January 7, 2014, which happened to be their 35th wedding anniversary as well.

“The day we got it, it was 6 degrees outside. It was the middle of a polar vortex,” says Lois. “It took them a couple of months to get the top deck constructed on the water because it was too cold to be outside.”

Including Gotto’s Grotto, there are eight other new Sumerset boats in existence. You’ll find them on Lake Lanier in Georgia and Lake Powell in Utah, as well as Lake Cumberland in Kentucky. Thanks to the leadership team at Thoroughbred Houseboats, die-hard Sumerset fans can keep the dream going.  


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