SōLSTAY Lodging & Marina enters its second year with new amenities and rental options

What's up on the Back Bay: SōLSTAY Lodging & Marina had a very good inaugural season, according to owner Joe Lisa. It was so good that the unique idea of providing houseboats to stay in on the bay near Cedar Point approached 98% occupancy for most weekend last summer.

However, the first year of any business is as much about learning what works as it is providing for customers.

“We had a lot of great feedback,” Lisa says. “A lot of people had a great time staying here with us and enjoyed the different amenities. We also learned a lot from last year about things that we could do better and things we knew we wanted to do more of. We kind of learned more about what people actually wanted and that confirmed if we were correct or not.”

SōLSTAY started with 10 houseboat units and three cottages at its River Avenue location. One change this year is three luxury houseboats have been added to go along with the 10 original units.

“People like coming here to Sandusky,” Lisa says. “It’s a beautiful place and we give our guests the best of all things. You get a day at the lake, you get a day in the sand. You get the experience of being able to sit by a fire and be in a hot tub and play backyard games, but also, you’re just down the road from Cedar Point and a mile and change from the ferry to get to the islands, so people just kind of flocked here.”

What's new for 2024: One big change to the property is the store space has been cut down significantly. Lisa discovered there was a lot of wasted space, so the facility is now a lounge for visitors to relax and enjoy with the essential convenience items available for purchase.

The final improvement for 2024 is the addition of a floating sauna that will provide guests with a nearly perfect view of the bay.“If you need some things, we will have some things, but we turned most of the store into a lounge area,” Lisa says. “There is a work space and a place to hang out and play board games. We have a really neat setup with wood counters, a bar area to sit and get some work done, but also a place that you won’t feel shunned for sending a couple of emails.”

The lounge space, which also features plants and greenery and wood textures, has already been a hit since SōLSTAY opened this spring.

“It’s super cool,” Lisa says. “It creates almost more of a desire for people to buy things. People come in and hang out and grab a snack or a drink and they keep hanging out. They don’t feel like they have to leave immediately.”

There's even more: Another improvement at SōLSTAY is a 60-ft. x 40-ft. concrete patio that leads into the store with more outdoor seating and a large ping-pong table. The SōLSTAY team has also updated all of the bathroom facilities on the property and has added kayak rentals to the activities that are offered.

“We’ve also updated the appearance,” Lisa says. “Now when you pull in, you’re immediately wowed by the view of the water. We’ve added more bar stool seating along the water with umbrellas so that when it’s sunny, you won’t feel like you’re melting.”

SōLSTAY does not offer alcoholic beverages, but does sit near the Cove at Louie’s Bar and the new Pipe Creek Wharf on River Avenue.

“(Alcohol) is something we’ve considered adding, but we just want to focus on what we are good at first,” Lisa says. “We are located by two bars and people can get their alcohol there if they really want. There’s no sense competing against them when we can do our thing and they can do their thing.”

The final improvement for 2024 is the addition of a floating sauna that will provide guests with a nearly perfect view of the bay.

“That’s the icing on the cake,” Lisa says of the sauna. “We have all these cool things and really neat houseboats, but we’ve added this sauna that basically sits on a pontoon barge and is floating at the end of our dock. It’s the best view on the property.”

Kickoff party: The public is invited to attend the SōLSTAY kickoff party from 4-7 p.m. May 11. The Forgotten Band will provide the entertainment and The Strawberry Cow food truck will be serving up its frozen treats.

“It will going to be a really fun atmosphere to have people see what we’ve done over the winter and fall,” Lisa says. “I think we’ve been really fortunate to have great guests and have had a lot of great feedback to know what we are doing correctly and what we can improve upon. I think people want something different and there’s not a lot of different around here.

“There are things to do and this brings them to do those things and lets them experience the beauty of Lake Erie from an arm’s reach away.”

How to get involved: SōLSTAY Lodging & Marina is located at 2312 River Ave., Sandusky. For information on lodging, go to solstaylodging,com, call (419) 605-8012 or email at [email protected].