Boaters who live on or enjoy exploring the Blackwater River arm of the lake now have a new full-service marina that can meet both marine service and gastronomic needs.
Magnum Point Marina opened its renovated facility in mid-May and has quickly become the go-to place along the upper Blackwater for gas and bait and tackle, as well as breakfast, lunch or dinner. Co-owner John Mathena joined Fulton Jones, who established the original Magnum Point Marina in 1986 and operated it for 20 years before leasing it out in 2006, and Jones’ daughter, Lauren Carter, who has experience working in and managing the marina’s restaurant, to give the location a new lease on life.
Mathena, a civil engineer by trade, was a Roanoke-based regional project manager for a nationwide development company until a year ago.
“I turned 50 last August and was having a bit of a mid-life crisis,” Mathena recalled. “I put my boat in at the then-Blackwater Marina ramp and saw their ‘For Sale’ sign. I had been dreaming of getting back into the boating business for years — my family was in that business on Bluestone Lake in West Virginia — and thought, ‘OK, maybe this is it.’ I pooled funds with Fulton and Lauren to buy out the previous operators. We closed the deal in January and immediately began a major rehab.”
Mathena designed, managed and helped with the renovation, which began with new docks by L&J Enterprises of Union Hall. The building itself was gutted; the kitchen expanded from 80 to 400 square feet — room for an 18-foot exhaust hood, brick pizza ovens, two griddles, a commercial four-burner stove, two ovens and several deep fryers.
“A kitchen staff of four can work in there efficiently,” Mathena said.
Restrooms have been remodeled; the building got new doors, windows and siding. A 1929 Old Town canoe, originally purchased by the city of Danville for Dan River clean-up duty, hangs over the bar. Mathena made hanging lights out of perforated minnow bucket liners (the outer buckets serve as tabletop beer buckets). Mathena’s daughter, Stephanie, suggested bass boat seats for bar stools, so Mathena crafted bases to make them usable. Some of Mathena’s father’s old outboards and other boating artifacts from Bluestone Lake also adorn the walls.
Jones’ wife, Lynette, who operated La Trattoria in Union Hall for 12 years, agreed to come on as chef.
“It is a vastly different place now,” said Carter, who managed the restaurant for the previous operators. “And it’s great to have the family working together. That sets the tone: we treat customers like family, too.”
The grill’s full menu can be found on Facebook. Among the most popular items so far are “fish tacos, pulled pork nachos, pizza,” Carter said without hesitation. “For breakfast, it’s full plates, omelets and French toast.”
Mathena added, “We use homemade sauces, local breads, fresh pizza dough and beef from Diamond S Farm in Union Hall. We also deliver pizza and take-out by boat to Blackwater River customers.”
Gas pumps are open from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. seven days a week during the summer season (24/7 credit card self-service is coming soon). The 14-acre property has room for a campground with several cabins. “When I can get to it,” Mathena said. “Plans are in the works.”
In addition, full mechanical services are available by Southlake Motorsports & Marine, which is run by Fulton Jones. The firm’s mechanics also make dock calls for repairs and winterizations. Lift-equipped slips are available for rent, as are six pontoons and a center console fishing boat. Use of the paved boat launch ramp during business hours is just $5.