By: Paul Fenn
In part 2 of our 3-part series, Getting Back to It, we catch up with Dan Krier of Marine
Servicenter based in Seattle, WA.
DK: Marine Servicenter began in 1977 because Jim and Jeanna Rard bought a new Ranger 33 and the dealer did not have a rigger to commission it. Although Jim had never put together a boat before, he told the dealer he could do it, and he did! He did such a good job that the dealer offered him a small office space and a crane and asked him to do all of his new boat commissioning. Jim and Jeanna lived on their new boat at the end of the dealer's dock, and a company was born. Ironically, the location that Marine Servicenter was born is the same location the company occupies in downtown Seattle on Lake Union today with a new 2 story building and several Jeanneau sailboats on the dock (but no longer a crane)!
Jim was a one-man show for a while, then began adding mechanics, fiberglass repair people, riggers and welders. Soon, they outgrew their small shop, and had to move to bigger spaces. Jim wanted to add sales to his operation and became the Jeanneau Dealer for the Pacific Northwest in 1988. Marine Servicenter is the longest running Jeanneau Dealer in North America.
I came aboard in 1999 and have enjoyed every minute working with Jim and Jeanna as the Vice President of Yacht Sales. Our company has weathered many stroms over the years but the COVID-19 storm is by far a storm that requires careful planning and navigation.
DK: Normally, the busy season at Marine Servicenter begins in early March. New boats that were ordered at Fall & Winter boat shows start arriving for summer fun and several new stock boats and used boats are sold customers eager to make the most of the summer sailing-season.
In the boatyard many people "wake up" at this time of year and realize they need bottom paint on their boats before spring and summer cruising. Our staff would be ready for the onslaught, and our store would be chock full of paint, blocks, line, stainless steel jewelry, and life jackets. Our Sales Team would be showing boats and having demo weekends. This year, because of COVID-19, things are a little more subdued.
Our sales office has been closed to the public but we have two "marina workers" to keep boats clean and check boats at the marina daily. Our Sales Team had to adapt to working from home and have been offering customers personalized Facetime & WhatsApp video tours of boats. This has been working well with customers able to ask questions in real-time and get video of details "live". They have also been able to conduct a handful of "social distance" tours where the boat is open and sanitized ahead of the tour, the customers get aboard and go down below, the sales person then comes aboard and sits in the cockpit and is able to point things out and answer questions from afar. The sales person then goes to the dock and the clients into the cockpit and deck to continue the tour. So far, we have been able to sell a few new and used boats this way but it is nothing close to what we would normally be doing in what is normally our "busy" season.
The good news, we just learned today, is that “boat dealers” are part of phase 1 of our Governor’s 4-phase plan for re-opening. We will be able to open for business starting this weekend. We are adapting the way we do business however with new guidelines and protocal to protect the health of our staff and customers alike. Starting Saturday our doors will be open by appointment so if you think a new boat might be in your future, give us a call and set a time come on down to the water. Summer is arriving with 80 F temps this weekend and Our Sales Team is ready!
The other piece of good news is that our boatyard schedule is full for May so we have plenty of work to keep our crew busy.
DK: Our Governor had a "stay home - stay healthy" order in effect until May 4th but this has just been extended to May 31st. However, it’s a 4-phase plan and phase 1 begins now, so things are moving forward, albeit cautiously.
Boating has not been closed in WA but many people are not getting out on their boats. Fishing was closed, and boat ramps were also closed, but these are also being opened in phase 1 this week. Marinas are currently and have always been open. Many boaters are however practicing social distancing and "stay home" orders. There are a handful of boaters getting out in the nice Spring weather we have had. Not nearly the amount who would be out normally however.
With all that being said, we did just this past week, deliver two brand new Sun Odyssey 410s to customers who have been waiting for their boats to arrive from the factory in Marion. The Toland family of 4 were so excited to get their boat, they immediacy hopped on board and sailed it from our yard in Anacortes to their mooring on Lake Washington this past weekend. Watching customers sail off in their new boat for the first time is always exciting but given all that’s going on right now, it’s especially exciting!
Several of the San Juan Island communities have issued warnings about being low on fuel and food, and some are asking boaters not to come for now. They are concerned that their very small health-care system could not handle an outbreak. These Island communities and boaters alike hope that tourism and boating come back very soon when it is safe to do so.