On Tuesday, I wrote about a new dealership in Sarasota, Fla. — the Viage Group — that’s using its success at the St. Petersburg Power & Sailboat Show to catapult the business forward.
Today I am going back in time to explain the success of a Markdale, Ontario, boatbuilder that displayed its product at the St. Pete show — Rossiter Boats and its Florida dealer Big Toy Storage and Sales of Venice.
Scott Hanson took over this boatbuilding company of small powerboats and rowing craft from the founder George Rossiter in 2007.
Hanson’s relationship with the business started on the ski slopes. Who would’ve thought, right? Hanson met Rossiter while snow-skiing and later bumped into him again at a cocktail party.
At the time he was CEO of a market research firm with offices in New York and Toronto. “I was one of these fathers who spent his life on an airplane,” said Hanson, who holds a design and boatbuilding degree from the Landing School in Maine. “George had terminal cancer and had to get his affairs in order.”
Two days after the party, Hanson visited Rossiter’s shop. “What I found is that those who knew Rossiter boats loved them and the rest of the world had no idea they existed,” Hanson said. “And as a brand marketing guy, which is what I was, I had a real opportunity.”
And he has taken advantage of that opportunity. In the last year, Rossiter has built 100 units and next year Hanson believes that number will increase to 150. Rossiter’s 15 employees work out of a 92,000-square-foot building.
Rossiter builds semicustom rowboats and powerboats, including seven models of rowing boats, which include yacht tenders, skiffs, recreational sport shells and its most popular model, the 17-foot Loudon. George Rossiter about 20 years ago added a 14-foot deep-vee powerboat to his fleet.
“He wanted a boat that was surefooted and soft and dry,” Hanson said. “And he said a deep-vee is where we’re going to start.” Rossiter added a flat lifting pad on centerline for easy planing. Hanson used the 14’s design to create a 17-footer in center console and runabout models. The company is working on a 23-foot runabout that it expects to debut at the Palm Beach International Boat Show.
“You’re never going to see thousands of Rossiters on the ocean and waterways, but owners love them and keep them and that’s what we are proud of,” he said. “We have a unique relationship with our dealers and customers.”
Hanson has seen high interest for his boats in Florida.
“The typical Floridian customer for us is a snowbird who has probably grown up in the Great Lakes or Northeast,” he said. “When they look at our boat, it conjures up a lot of positive memories in terms of style and look.”
I had the opportunity after the boat show’s conclusion to demo the 17-foot center console with a Yamaha F115 and a 14-footer with a Yamaha F40. And those lifting pads do indeed work. These boats are quick to plane and can stay on plane at low speeds. I had the 17-footer cutting through 2- to 3-foot seas at a 12-mph clip in the Gulf of Mexico.
“The simplicity of our boats is their beauty and the ride is the surprise,” Hanson said.
Simple, but high-end: The 14 with a 40-hp engine ranges from $18,000 to $20,000 and the 17 with an F90 comes in at roughly $35,000.