VIDEO: Launched at the onset of the recession, Regal & Nautique of Orlando is expanding

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More than 300 people gathered to celebrate the dealership’s 10th anniversary and announcement it would build a new showroom and service center.

More than 300 people gathered to celebrate the dealership’s 10th anniversary and announcement it would build a new showroom and service center.

Regal & Nautique of Orlando first opened its doors in September 2008, at the onset of a global financial collapse that prompted the Great Recession.

Jeff Husby

Jeff Husby

Jeff Husby co-founded the dealership with a pre-approved $5 million floorplan from Textron.

“By the time we opened in September, Textron was out of business, GE was not taking on new business, and our local bankers were really laughing at us and told us we were crazy to be in the boat business,” Husby told Trade Only Today. “We pulled up some money, bought a bunch of boats, sold them one by one, and it was extremely difficult. We lost money for the first several years.”

Husby had spent 15 years as the general manager of Southeast Correct Craft, the Southeast distribution center for Nautique, where he ran retail operations. It was there that he created a customer base that followed him to the new location.

“We started with five or six employees, and found this location where we currently are,” said Husby. “When we pulled into this location to look at it, we said, ‘We’ll never fill this place up,’ and today we’re just bursting at the seams.”

So, as the company celebrated its 10th anniversary with more than 300 customers and key industry players and watersports champions, it announced that it plans to build a $2.5 million, 15,000-square-foot retail showroom and service center directly adjacent to its existing property. The expansion will increase the dealership’s footprint from an 8,100-square-foot building on 2.07 acres to an estimated 23,100-square-foot property on 3.4 acres in Orlando. The new facility will house Nautique, and Regal will stay in the existing location, said Husby. (Moomba boats will also be sold at the existing location, but are a much smaller part of the business, said Husby.)

The retailer has bucked the declining sterndrive trend, according to Husby. In 2017, Regal & Nautique of Orlando was the top Regal dealer worldwide, and this year, is the No. 2 dealer with the No. 1 CSI rating.

“So we’re hitting all cylinders by being a large-volume dealer while maintaining our commitment to customer service,” said Husby.

Many of his customers boat on local lakes and enjoy the large platform that comes with the sterndrive-powered boats. “Sterndrives are a perfect fit for central Florida lakes,” said Husby. “There are some outboards out there, but sterndrive and inboard V-drive models are more dominant.”

The Nautique factory has been in Orlando since 1925, and Regal has been located there since 1969, giving the dealership what Husby refers to as a hometown advantage.

“I also don’t think there’s very many dealerships, if any, in the United States that can say they’re representing two hometown manufacturers, so it’s kind of a unique position,” said Husby.

Husby doesn’t worry about the next recession because both of his main brands are well capitalized and not over-leveraged like some manufacturers, he said.

“What I’m really excited about is separating these two brands to turn the service much quicker than we have in the past by having dedicated personnel,” said Husby.

Though workers are difficult to come by in today’s market, Husby the reputation of the dealership has made attracting workforce less challenging.

“Our accountant has worked with me for 23 years,” said Husby. “I have some other employees that have been here all 10 years I’ve been open, so we have a loyal staff that is dedicated to the customer and loyal to the business.”

“If I had to close my doors today, I would want people to know I still have a good reputation,” said Busby. “When you do things the right way, good things happen.”

And the dealership's floorplan financing? That comes from the bank that laughed at Husby a decade ago. It now considers Regal & Nautique of Orlando one of its top customers and is open to whatever Husby needs.

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