Joe and Joy Reinert have purchased the Southern Belle Riverboat for $2.6 million, capping a 26-year career of service on board the well-known tourist attraction.
"We plan on keeping things pretty much the same," she said, although the couple recently opened a burger bar on the third floor of Pier 2, the converted casino boat now used as a pier which they also obtained as part of the deal.
The Reinerts have worked in nearly every role as part of the crew as far back as March 1986 when Joy Reinert joined the crew. The boat was built in 1985, just a half-hour drive from its berth under the Olgiati Bridge, at the Serodino Boat Yards in Guild, Tenn.
A quarter-century later, the husband and wife team were working as jack-of-all-trades and general manager, respectively, when former owner ZMC Hotels offered them the ship.
"It just kind of came up," Joy Reinert said.
They secured a loan from Community National Bank with the help of Gary Griffin from Capital Growth Solutions after going through reams of paperwork, rushing to get ready in time for Riverbend.
"First they had to research the maritime laws to make sure all the titles and everything are filed properly and get everything recorded," Griffin said. "Then we had to go down to city hall and get a license for the boat because it didn't really have a license."
Now with permits from every government official from the Hamilton County Register of Deeds to the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency, the Reinerts are on their own with a 25-year Small Business Administration loan in a turbulent economy.