Town Tinker Tube Rental up for sale – Daily Freeman

PHOENICIA, NY — After more than 40 years, Harry Jameson is retiring as owner of The Town Tinker and he’s putting the Esopus Creek tubing business, an area fixture, up for sale.

“When I started Town Tinker I was 26 years old,” Jameson said “I’m 68 years old now.”

Jameson hopes someone will come along and continue the business to serve tubes and Phenicia as he moves onto the next chapter in his life. “We’ve had a couple of interested people and we’re still pursuing it at this point,” he said.

Town Tinker last offered its tubing adventures in the summer of 2019, with the COVID-19 pandemic putting the kibosh on both the 2020 and 2021 seasons.

“The tubing operation depends on buses and there’s no ability to social distance,” Jameson said. He pondered running at reduced capacity to allow for distancing but, he said it turned out to not be economically feasible.

He said Town Tinker tubing journeys in the past decade or so lasted between one hour to one hour and 45 minutes and traversed 1.5 miles of a creek which is far from static year to year.

Tubers wait outside Town Tinker Tube Rental in July 2019, the last year the Phenicia-based tubing business operated its summer tubing operation on Esopus Creek. (Photo provided)

“The creek is a very fluid environment,” Jameson said. “Changes happen, sometimes there are floods and floods make major changes.”

Tubers face what the American Whitewater Affiliation classifies as class two-whitewater, which has one- to three-foot waves, clear channels and no need for prior scouting, Jameson said. The whitewater scale runs from class one, which is almost flat water, to class five, which is recommended to be pre-scouted before even hitting the water, he added.

Jameson said he first tubed the Esopus when he was 12. “It was one of the local pastimes,” he said. “Everybody did it on a hot summer day, there was nothing more fun than grabbing a tube and taking a ride down the creek.”

After graduating from Onteora High School in 1973, Jameson went to the Navy, where he worked in flight simulation. After getting out of the Navy, he worked as an engineer in flight simulation.

But he found the corporate life just wasn’t for him and he came back to Phenicia and bought the future Town Tinker barn on Bridge Street, which he said was in such a bad condition it was ready to fall down.

Jameson said that’s when he had a revelation about making a business of tubing on the Esopus. He noted he wasn’t the first to rent tubes on the creek.

“I saw a couple of local kids had started a tubing business, but it never went far,” he said.

He said he rented out about 1,000 tubes the first year, but by the third year, having taken out radio ads and billboards, and with the sheer luck of getting picked up by The New York Times, Town Tinker rented out 12,000 tubes and more and more people came.

Tubers come through some rapids along the Esopus Creek in Phenicia, NY, in 2019. (Tania Barricklo/Daily Freeman)

Jameson estimates Town Tinker has easily sent a million people down the river in 40 years.

Town Tinker reached the height of its popularity in the 1990s before business leveled off some, Jameson said. He cautioned pinning attendance trends is tough because tube rental is seasonal and is extremely dependent on weather.

“It ebbs and flows,” he said.

Jameson said the business remains extremely popular, noting each of the two past springs Town Tinker was closed due to the pandemic the phone rung off the hook with people asking when it would open.

“People are still very interested in it and they were disappointed to learn it was not available,” he said.

As for worries about litigation, Jameson said he’s often asked this question and he noted he’s only ever legal action three times in 40 years and nothing came out of it on any of those occasions.

Tubers all wear life jackets, helmets and proper footgear, sign a disclaimer with info on all the possible hazards, and staffers at the rental counter verbally notify all tubers of the inherent risks in participating, he said.

“Tubing is not recommended for non-swimmers, people with heart conditions or who are diabetic,” he said. “Most people who are active and healthy have a great time.”

As his time as Town Tinker draws to a close, Jameson plans to devote more time to his wedding venue, Romer Mountain Park, at the site of the Old Phenicia Ski Area, which shut down back in 1976.

“It was the first ski center in New York, it had a rope tow and no chairlifts or snowmaking,” he said. “Many people learned to ski there.”

He’s also contemplating writing a book about his time in the tube rental business, pitching a potential title of “Tales of The Town Tinker.”

Jameson said he’ll continue to serve as the Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Catskill Mountain Railroad, which presently offers scenic train rides on the old Ulster and Delaware Railroad tracks out of its Westbrook Road Station at Kingston Plaza in Kingston and formerly operated scenic train rides in Mount Tremper and Phenicia on a section of the line that now hosts the Rail Explorers rail biking operation.

Jameson said he also plans to devote time to restoring a 1954 Jaguar two-seat roadster that he bought 40 years ago and once housed in the Town Tinker barn. He despite admitted decades of tinkering on and off with the Jag, he’s never made it driveable.

But he pledged that’s going to change now.

“I’m going to put the motor back in it, get it on the road and take it for a ride,” Jameson said.

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