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ENDURING BOAT RENTAL BUSINESS A LOT MORE THAN JUST A FAMILY AFFAIR

DORIS BOUQUARD is firmly in charge these days running Buffalo's oldest boat livery at the foot of Tifft Street.

"Everybody knows about Bouquard's," quips Bouquard, 63, about the boat rental business started 83 years ago by her late father-in-law, John, and his father, Francis.

The Bouquards' claim on a crescent-shaped beach started when the elder Bouquards frequented the bay for muskie fishing.

The fishing continued and so did the visits to the bay. In time, the area became known as Bouquard's Bay and a family business was born.

Doris Bouquard, who took over operation of the business in 1983 when her husband, Cyril, died, says she has lots of help these days from her "crew" of 10 children, in-laws and 13 grandchildren.

For the Bouquards, the boat rental business has become more than offering 14-foot boats to fishermen or mooring space to some 40 boat owners. They literally live on the site during the summer when there's lots of time for chores and for play.

"We have good times here. It's not just a family business. They do all of the heavy work," says Bouquard, referring to seven daughters and three sons who visit her daily.

When her husband died, Bouquard says there was no question she would continue the business.

"I just got my insurance and got started," she says.

Since then, she has put in a new main dock and bought six new Mirrocraft aluminum boats. Apparently, it's high insurance rates that makes Bouquard's one of the few boat rental businesses on Lake Erie.

Bouquard rents out eight 14-foot fishing boats at $10 for five or fewer hours. She insists her renters take along life jackets and rents those at an extra charge, along with $10 for the anchor deposit. Renters have to bring their own motors. She allows up to 10-horsepower and their fishing gear, of course.

Beyond that, visitors know Doris. She's there for the locals as well as the out-of-town visitors.

"There's lots of demand," she says. "I've gotten people on vacation from Michigan and Ohio, divers from Niagara Falls and Batavia to rent boats because no one else is renting."

For those who don't know, Bouquard's is at 1581 Fuhrmann Blvd., at the end of Tifft Street.

lot more than just a family affair
Now that the Father Baker Bridge is down, Bouquard's has a little more visibility. A sign proclaiming their 80 years (sic) on the Buffalo waterfront is visible from the roadside.

Actually, Bouquard's history seems to parallel the ups and downs of the Father Baker.

When the bridge was being built, Bouquard's was moved from the roadside to the beach area at the bottom of a gentle slope. The business is on its third trailer -- one was destroyed in a storm, another in a fire in 1979. The Bouquards kept their business going by relocating to a pilot house first put on the property in 1946.

The Bouquards' closest neighbor to the south is an abandoned cement company building. To the north, there's another boating outfit, Southend Marina, which operates out of an abandoned grain mill.

The area still is decidedly industrial and really hasn't changed much in the 51 years she has been visiting the lakefront, Bouquard says. At a time of lots of talk about waterfront renewal, Bouquard's stands as a monument to another time on the Buffalo shore when folks were attracted to the water's edge to fish, to swim and to live.

These days, Bouquard co-exists with her neighbor, Fred Langdon, who runs Southend Marina. She observes his 150-foot-from-shore right of way and moors boats only in the southern end of the bay. She accommodates boaters who can't afford or can't get a slip at a downtown marina and don't mind having their boats tied to a mooring.

She runs the moorings as she does the rest of the operation. She knows who asks for space and she helps when she can. There's no formal waiting list.

"I don't want to promise anybody and then have them disappointed."

When it comes to boat rentals, Doris seems to know everything there, too. She rents only to those 16 and over, and bans groups from taking out alcohol. If they pick up booze from another point on shore, she'll find out about it and they won't rent from her again.

Although her children sometimes urge her to expand, Bouquard says she's happy with things just the way they are.

"I think the bigger you get, the more worries you have. I don't want to put this or that in. I like it just the way it is."

That means help from her children. Sons John, James and Robert help when not working at other jobs and on weekends. Seven daughters and sister-in-law Nancy Carr come around to do their share.

"We have our own security," quips Bouquard. "No one gets away with too much."

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