A $10 million intervention

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The new location is being prepared for the grand opening this weekend after SkipperBud’s invested $10 million in reconstruction. Photos by SkipperBud’s development vice president Mark Ellerbrock.

The new location is being prepared for the grand opening this weekend after SkipperBud’s invested $10 million in reconstruction. Photos by SkipperBud’s development vice president Mark Ellerbrock.

SkipperBud’s will be hosting the grand opening of its sixth location this weekend to showcase its new 20,000-square-foot showroom, 125-slip marina, and dry-stack building that can accommodate 150 boats.

The new location on Cass Lake in Waterford, Mich., was a marina that originally started in the late 1940s, but hadn’t been redeveloped since the 1970s, SkipperBud’s development vice president Mark Ellerbrock told Trade Only Today. The company invested $10 million in the property.

“It was pretty much on its last legs and was looking to be sold and redeveloped in to condos without giving any real access to boaters,” Ellerbrock told Trade Only. “We were able to buy it and keep in its existing marina use. The Waterford Township was thrilled because we were able to keep it open and continue to provide access to boaters.”

Several inland marinas on small lakes had been turned over to condominiums in the 1990s, limiting boater access, Ellerbrock said.

“These condos were developed on parcels that used to serve 100 or 200 boaters, and now they’re exclusive to maybe 10 homeowners,” said Ellerbrock. “So this purchase and development on Cass Lake really keeps the access to the community open.”

From left to right: SkipperBud’s Cass Lake sales manager Chris Somers; development vice president Mark Ellerbrock; and regional vice president Trevis Burbach all stand in front of the new sign by Phillips Sign and Lighting Inc.

From left to right: SkipperBud’s Cass Lake sales manager Chris Somers; development vice president Mark Ellerbrock; and regional vice president Trevis Burbach all stand in front of the new sign by Phillips Sign and Lighting Inc.

In 2005, SkipperBud’s bought another marina that had been originally slated for condo redevelopment — this one on Lake Fenton in Michigan. “We’re rescuers of marinas,” said Ellerbrock.

At the new location, SkipperBud’s ripped out existing docks and commissioned Maricorp U.S. to build new ones to accommodate the beamier pontoon boats prevalent in the region, said Ellerbrock.

“The slips before barely fit an 8-foot-wide boat, so we widened the slips to accommodate today’s pontoons,” said Ellerbrock. “Our marina is now 90 percent pontoons, and 10 percent runabouts.”

They also purchased specially-manufactured forks for the facility’s forklifts that would easily lift pontoons and tri-toons. Ellerbrock says the slips have 100-percent occupancy rates and he expects that the dry stack will full by next spring.

“Once you get a boat tenant in a dry stack, they don’t want to leave because it’s easy access to the water for them, and if they only use their boat once a month, they don’t have to check up on it all the time,” said Ellerbrock. “It is also a known revenue stream for investors.”

Unlike many growing marina companies, SkipperBud’s does not have private investors. The company was launched in 1959 by Mike Pretasky Sr. and Ellerbrock’s father, and remains family owned and privately operated. Mike Pretasky Jr. is the second-generation CEO and president, and Ellerbrock is a minority partner.

SkipperBud’s, which has always specialized in preowned and brokerage sales in addition to new boat sales, gained attention post-recession when it began to buy hundreds of new repossessed boats for its inventory.

“Our fathers were very conservative; they had a strong balance sheet, and also had experience with preowned and brokerage boat sales,” said Ellerbrock. “That expertise, coupled with a strong balance sheet, gave us the ability to buy boats at that time. That really got us through the recession.”

The company expects a full house for the grand opening, where it will feature 2020 model year boats from Barletta, Glastron, Starcraft and Sylvan, according to a statement.

“We have a long list of people expecting to come to the grand opening sale,” said Ellerbrock. “They’re planning on buying boats, and it’s the end of August.” 

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