Lyman Life celebrates Lake Erie legacy boat brand

The outline looks like it’s smiling at you from the back of a T-shirt.

Just like the classic wooden boat that inspired it.

“Everyone smiles and waves when they see a Lyman,” said Michelle Burke, CEO of Lyman Life.

Built in Cleveland and then Sandusky, Lymans are loved for their “clinker-built” wood frames that glides through the rough chop of Lake Erie. The company was founded in 1875 and experienced a heyday in the 1950s and ‘60s before closing up shop in 1973. But there are still thousands of lovingly cared for Lymans still on the water.

After the Burke family bought their first Lyman in 2016, Michelle couldn’t find any good Lyman gear.

So the Burkes licensed the company’s logo, blue prints, catalogs, ads and more from Tom Koroknay, nicknamed “Doc Lyman,” who bought the company’s archives. And they launched the Lyman Life lifestyle brand, a line of shirts, tote bags, hats and other gear.

The brand immediately took off and has since moved from the family’s Rocky River home to a real office.

 “It’s just grown and grown,” said Burke, who works in bioethics at Case Western Reserve University. “There is a calling for this.”

The Burkes working on their Lyman. (Michelle Burke)

You can find the clothing online at lymanlife.com and at four stores in Erie Shores communities.

The gear is on display among established national outdoor brands, such as Vineyard Vines, which is where Burke wants to be. Just as you can wear Vineyard Vines’ whale logo without summering on Martha’s Vineyard, she says, you can wear Lyman Life without owning a Lyman.

“This is an authentic American legacy brand,” she said. “It’s a lifestyle brand, rooted in the tradition of Lyman, which is rooted in family and quality.”

Burke’s husband, Joe, grew up helping his uncle work on his Lyman. And plenty of people have similar stories.

At the Mid-America Boat Show in January, Tom Erlenbach of Bay Village stopped by the booth, wanting to buy a hat. His grandfather owned Lymans, he said.

“I’ve had an affinity for them my whole life,” Erlenbach said. “I would love to buy a Lyman and restore it.”

The clinker-built construction is remarkable, owners say; the overlapping of wood planks allows for wiggle room as the boat hits the waves.

The Burkes, who keep their boat in a Vermilion marina, like to tow their daughters on a tube behind their Lyman. Their 6-year-old steers, just as her dad did decades ago. And they bring their dog along for the ride.

His name is Lyman.

Want to know more about Lymans? You can find a Lyman to buy here. You can host an event or dock your boat at the old Lyman Harbor in Sandusky.

Share: