Below the Surface
Mount Dora Boating Center
Owner, Mount Dora
A disquieting trend unsettled people in the boat business a few years ago. At a time when Boomer demographics and circumstance should have favored strong industry growth, sales were at best flat. "Everything was playing to our favor, and we weren't going anywhere," says Mount Dora boat dealer and marina owner Joe Lewis.
Lewis, originally a businessman from Harrisburg, Pa., came to Florida in 1989 after reading a marina for-sale advertisement in the Wall Street Journal. His Mount Dora Boating Center now ranks 91st in Boating Industry's national top 100 dealers. The dealership includes a full-service marina, wet and dry storage and repair operation. Lewis believes in his product. He says he knows no better way for a family to bond because children of all ages love it. "There's absolutely nothing like it," he says.
To address the disquieting industry trend, manufacturers and retailers launched what became the Grow Boating initiative. Lewis, president of the Marine Industries Association of Florida, is one of only four dealers to sit on the group's board. As the Grow Boating group researched why people gave up boating, they found problems in the owners' sales, service and product experiences. Among other things, Grow Boating aims to address the problems by moving the industry toward certification and higher standards for manufacturing and sales. Says Lewis, 50, whose dealership was one of the first certified. "If we're going to turn this industry around, put it on a growth trend, we have to address the underlying issues."