I spent two days at the St. Petersburg Power & Sailboat Show last week and came away with a couple of positive stories. I’ll share the first today. Look for the second in Wednesday’s newsletter.
A new powerboat dealer in Sarasota — the Viage Group — has gotten off to an impressive start. In fact, co-owner Barry Marshall told me his business sold two Beneteau powerboats at the show — a Gran Turismo 49 and a Swift Trawler 34.
“We’re really excited — tired, but excited,” said Marshall, who owns Viage with partner Eddie Russell. “It’s going really well, and [our growth] is happening a lot faster than we thought it would.”
In addition to Beneteau, Viage carries the Scout and Chris-Craft brands. “We’ve had a great amount of interest in all three product categories, especially Beneteau,” he said. “We’ve been on the powerboat side of the business and have known Beneteau for its sailboats, so the interest in Beneteau power has been a nice surprise.”
Viage will be chasing several good leads for other sales, so Marshall and Russell are keeping a couple of boats in the water for sea trials in St. Petersburg for the next 30 days. “We have a lot of follow-up work to do,” he said.
Marshall and Russell left MarineMax to start the business. Marshall was MarineMax regional president for the west coast of Florida and Russell was the MarineMax executive vice president and chief operating officer.
“I started with Gulf Wind Marine, which became MarineMax, back in 1978, scraping bottom paint, driving a forklift and washing boats,” Marshall said. “Eddie started in 1983 as a salesman.”
The duo has only been in business for about eight months and has yet to open its physical location at Hidden Harbor Marine. That’ll happen in about four weeks. It does have a temporary display inside a local mall in Sarasota.
The duo wanted to build their business on a foundation of premium brands with strong factory support, Marshall said. “All three have great reputations,” he said. “You as a dealer need quality and support.”
Boaters want that same high level of support from their dealers, Marshall said.
“More and more people are confirming that we can take care of them after the sale,” Russell said. “And we plan to do that.”
Marshall is enthused about his business and the industry’s financial health in general.
“It’s coming back — not to the level of ’05 and ’06, but it’s definitely back, plus Sarasota is a quality market.”