I’ve never been to a Strong’s Marine location, but I can imagine I’d be hearing Sister Sledge’s “We Are Family” playing in the background. Those lyrics could easily sum up this remarkable, family-owned and operated, multi-location dealership marking its 75th Anniversary of serving boating families from diverse locations across Long Island, N.Y.
But family doesn’t just refer to this mom-and-pop business now operated by the fourth generation of Strong’s, an increasingly rare occurrence these days as we witness multi-location retail organizations assembled through acquisitions. In Strong’s case, family also means the customers, respectfully called clients, and the wide variety of customer-centric programs that are the Strong suit.
When Stewart Strong launched the Strong & Holland Marina in 1945, he set one mantle that remains above all else: “Super Service.” Today, it permeates, with nine locations, 425 slips and 165 dry stacks overseen by 160 full-time team members and 75 part-timers.
Stewart handed down this business philosophy to his son Dave who, along with wife Dottie, established Strong’s Marine in Mattituck on Long Island’s North Fork in 1965. Dave and Dottie have passed the mantle of Super Service on to son Jeff, currently president and whose wife, Re, is dubbed by the clients Strong’s number one “goodwill ambassador.”
Enter the fourth generation — Ryan as vice president and Jay serves on the Board. They are much of the energy behind today’s ideas and programs that directly serve the clients in wide-ranging ways. For example, at the Strong’s Water Club location, Ryan recently reimagined and directed a complete overhaul of their popular Windamere Restaurant, outdoor patio, tiki bar and seating.
But to fully appreciate Strong’s penchant for maintaining boating client connections will require describing about 75 special events and programs undertaken each year.
For example, how about a SCUBA workshop for children ages 7-12; a Touch Tank day with clams, scallops, shrimp, crabs, snails and fish; or a unique 4-day Science Mini Camp that focuses on experiencing critical shellfish and habitat restoration, all the result of an ongoing partnership with the Cornell Cooperative Extension – Marine Program.
If group cruising is appealing, the annual Strong’s Rendezvous brings many families together in new locations each season. If kicking back with good musical entertainment appeals to other clients, the well-attended “Sounds of Summer” concert series is a winner.
“We believe that time on the water enriches lives and brings people closer,” Jeff explains. “So, education is always a key part of our client focus. Knowledge builds confidence and that leads to doing more family boating. So, we offer a variety of events that include subjects like hands-on electronics seminars, boat handling and safety practice, water sports activities like skiing or tubing, and much more.”
More also refers to Strong’s unique “Fear Buster!” sessions. Specifically, these help clients learn to navigate Long Island’s Shinnecock Canal Lock. This 4,700-foot-long canal cuts across the South Fork of the island connecting Great Peconic Bay with the North Fork and the Atlantic Ocean. The point — eliminating any fear of navigating the one-mile canal and lock opens a host of new destinations for clients. Jeff also produced an excellent video on the subject.
Excellence is also found in a regular client communications program that includes high-caliber websites; blogs on subjects from client experiences to the hottest family boating trends; a high-quality magazine; and hassle-free access to team members for all clients.
The training and safe boating mantle extends to Strong’s team members, too. All are required to have their safe boating certificate. Uniquely, Strong’s also provides team members with CPR training and even winter safe driving seminars. And, overall, there’s a major focus on talent development from within that comes in the form of Strong’s dedicated “Leader of Learning” program.
In addition to full-service marinas on the Peconic Bay and Long Island Sound that provide in-water and dry-stack accommodations with optional premium valet services, Strong’s also operates boat rentals, a boat club with exclusive member benefits, captained yacht charters and even leasing on select larger craft. Indeed, the core value of “Super Service” extends to a full range of repair and maintenance services, including winterizing and storage for boats up to 75 feet both at the marinas and via mobile dockside service extended to all of Long Island and the metro New York area.
Strong’s brands include Cobalt, Grady-White, Pursuit and Regal. Strong’s Yachts branding features Cruisers Yachts.
Finally, this four-generation heritage of “Super Service” is embodied in a series of core values that defines all the client-team member relationships, perhaps captured best here: “One team united; it’s not about who’s right; it’s about what’s right — communicating honestly, openly and with compassion to foster trust and build strong relationships with teammates, clients and suppliers.”