The last five years have been the toughest in the history of the high-performance powerboat world. That’s hardly a secret. But while the most widely reported effects have been the struggles of once-prominent brands such as Fountain and Eliminator, the distribution channels for those products have also been decimated. Where five years ago there were dozens of dedicated go-fast boat dealers—meaning they inventoried, sold, and serviced nothing but go-fast boats—now there are less than a handful.
Leading the small pack is Pier 57 Marine in Waukegan, Ill., which will soon be expanding into a new facility nearby, according to Scott Sjogren, the owner of the dealership. In February this year, Pier 57, owned by David Woods in Counce, Tenn., and Shogren Marine (Sjogren used the Americanized spelling of his name back then) joined forces under the Pier 57 name and moved all operations to Waukegan.
The full-service dealer carries V-bottoms from Cigarette Racing Team, and V-bottoms and catamarans from Marine Technology, Inc., two of the most-respected and best-known brands in the go-fast boat world. Pier 57 also carries pre-owned models from—depending on current inventory—every major high-performance powerboat builder.
“We have been in the same building for almost 10 years, and we want to take our business in a slightly different direction both in terms of boat sales and the repair, maintenance, and transport services we offer,” Sjogren said. “Our service department is continuing to grow, and there are things we have learned over the years, such as investing in new equipment and tools. I believe you have to become more value-added oriented today and become more of a ‘boutique’ than a boat dealership. I think the days of just being a boat dealership are numbered. The emphasis has to be on complete customer experience."
Pier 57’s new digs will feature 40,000 square feet of showroom, offices, and storage space. An expanded service center will be a major upgrade from the new and pre-owned high-performance powerboat dealers’ Waukegan location. The new facility will be equipped with photography friendly T-5 lighting in its showroom and larger, more comfortable sales offices. Customers will now have the ability to “spec-out” new boats before their eyes with laptop computers that will be linked to various flat-screen televisions in the showroom and offices.
Pier 57 will also continue to feature indoor storage for all of its pre-owned and new-boat inventory. That makes the dealership a 12-month-a-year business, rather than something seasonal.
“When a consumer visits our facility, they do not just come in for the product, they come in for the experience,” said Sjogren. “Consumers today expect one-stop shopping experiences and we believe the boutique will be the future model -- and that’s exactly what we are looking to provide within our new facility.”
In addition to upgrading Pier 57’s service center, the company will continue to expand its concierge and transportation services. To accomplish this goal, the dealer has purchased new trucks to transport its clients' boats to events all over country, and added additional staff, according to Sjogren. The concierge side of the business includes detailing, fueling, service, and having the boat ready to go before events such as poker runs, and taking them off their owners’ hands when the events are finished.
“Our customers spend a lot of money on their boats and transporting them to events,” Sjogren said. “The goal with our concierge service is to add value to that experience.”
- Matt Trulio