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A Classic Ocean Racer is Repaired at Brewer Pilots Point Marina
September 5, 2013
While many boat owners made the difficult decision to consider their boat totaled by the damage sustained in last fall’s Superstorm Sandy, one owner moved quickly to repair his 52-foot racer. Resting on stands in a boatyard in Mamaroneck, NY when Sandy’s winds reached 100 mph broadside and the tidal surge rose nearly six feet under the boat, she floated off and eventually laid over. Her hull structure failed at the keel bolts, the rudder was damaged beyond repair and water filled the interior to deck level on the port side.
Fortunately, a fellow yacht club member suggested the owner consider having the boat repaired by Brewer Yacht Yard Group at their Pilots Point facility in Westbrook CT, where his J/122 had received a similar repair the year before. Within days, the owner exchanged calls, emails and photos with Pilots Point General Manager Jeremy Maxwell, Steve Burke of Burke Design, LLC of Centerville, MA, and his insurance company. All agreed it was a major job, requiring shipbuilding capabilities in addition to more standard boatyard repairs. These would include turning the boat upside down, thermal imaging to determine the extent of damage, and resin infusion to produce the 5-foot by 12-foot section of the hull damaged when the keel separated from it.
While the insurance company was slow to get a surveyor to the boat in the chaos after the storm, the owner did receive approval via email to move the vessel from New York to Brewer Pilots Point and to proceed with repairs. By December, the boat was at Pilots Point and work began with the goal of racing her in the Block Island Race on Memorial Day weekend.
Under the project management of David Gray, Pilots Point’s composites specialist, much of the boat’s interior was cleared away due to saltwater intrusion and to allow access for the repairs. Some parts were beyond salvage, but others were stored for reinstallation. The galley, nav station, fuel tanks, bottom bunks, lower half of the main bulkhead, heads and plumbing were removed, along with the cabin sole and frames. Mark Ashton of Independent Marine Systems, LLC of Newport, RI used thermal imaging to determine the extent of damage and the outside was sanded back to remove all material in order to establish index lines, centerline and level because there was no keel stub. A laser was used to determine those lines once the boat was leveled.
The boat was then rolled over in the Travelift to determine the size and location of the hull piece to be replaced and make a mold for the new one. At the same time, saddles were built to cradle the boat once she was righted again. This was to protect her from sagging or twisting once the 5- by 12-foot section was removed.
The new piece, called a keel plate, was engineered by Steve Burke to ensure it met contemporary American Bureau of Shipping fin keel strength standards, which are much stronger than the original. The keel plate was created using resin infusion on location at Brewer Pilots Point. This process of making fiberglass produces maximum strength at minimum weight, and offers high repeatability for consistency and saturation of the resin within the fiberglass. It’s a complex and precise system requiring technical experience and high quality manufacturing standards. Collaborating with Burke on the engineering, Gray and the team of technicians laid up the clear gel coat and layers of fiberglass in the mold, taped out the solid piece for the keel sump, then added the core, inner skin and reinforcement before introducing resin. Resin was infused at a controlled temperature using vacuum bag technology to eliminate air pockets in the laminates. The infused structure was then baked for several hours.
Thermal imaging was used to confirm the absence of air bubbles in the new keel plate, and it was taken out of the mold to be prepped for installation. At this point, the edges of the hull where the section had been cut out were beveled according to Burke’s drawings and tabbing was added around the joint area. The hull laminate and the new piece were each ground out in a 16-inch taper at the meeting point. This connection allowed for fiberglass bonding that would spread the load and was located in the lowest stress point of the boat, away from the keel. With the new piece in position, the joint was laminated from the inside, and new floor frames and a new mast step were fabricated in place. The boat was rolled again to an upside-down position and the joint was laminated from the exterior. The intact hull was sanded and faired while upside down and even received a coat of bottom paint before being baked again for 12 hours as part of the post-curing process.
Then it was time to roll the boat upright again to drill for keel bolts and replace the flooring, main bulkhead, galley, nav station, chain plates, bunks and other items that had been removed or needed to be replaced. The boat was lifted onto the keel, and the use of a laser confirmed it was aligned correctly. The keel and hull were faired and painted. A new rudder was built by Eric Goetz Marine using CAD files from the original designer Bob Smith, and CDC tools to machine the shape. The original 4-inch carbon fiber rudder shaft was not damaged, and was re-used by Eric. The rudder was mounted, the interior was reinstalled, and engine work and other repairs were completed.
Once the hull repairs were completed, it was time to step the mast and check the rigging. The mast had been thermal imaged to determine there was no damage, and a new forestay and carbon backstay were installed. In total, the project required 3,000 man-hours.
“The project went smoothly,” said Jeremy Maxwell. “The owner was clear about his goal of racing her in the summer, and had confidence in the recommendations he had received about Burke and Brewer.” Asked about working with the insurance company on such a large project, Maxwell replied, “They were friendly with us, but the boat owner is always our customer, not the insurance company.”
While the boat was not ready until June, the owner says it was well worth the time and effort. His racing machine is a classic design, and one he had invested in personally building from a bare hull and deck in the 1990s. He knew he wanted to repair her after Sandy struck, and he says that she is stronger, stiffer and faster today thanks to the use of resin infusion technology and the strengthening of the keel plate. He suggests that boat owners have a good insurance policy and think hard about how they would react if faced with a catastrophic loss. Such a repair process is a commitment, but one made easier by professionals such as Steve Burke and the crews at Brewer Yacht Yards. His advice to those who find themselves in a similar situation is to talk with other boat owners and do your research to find satisfied customers. And with that, he was ready to start practicing for the Vineyard Race.
Click here to view the original article from WindCheck Magazine, along with photos.
by Richard Armstrong
July 29, 2013
With 22 thriving boatyards, Jack Brewer, now 72, opts for a new role in the business he loves.
Jack Brewer knew little about boats, let alone the marine industry, when in 1964 he took over management of a 16-slip boatyard in Mamaroneck, N.Y.
Forty-nine years later, what is now known as the Brewer Group owns and manages 22 Brewer Yacht Yards with a collective 6,500 slips and several hundred moorings across five states from New York to Maine. A year-long 50th anniversary celebration is to kick off at the Newport (R.I.) International Boat Show in September.
Brewer marinas and yards have a reputation for being well-run from top to bottom, and Jack Brewer was a pioneer in conceptualizing the marina as a destination — with swimming pools, tennis courts and the like — rather than just a point of departure. Each of his yards is profitable, and “we have never sold a marina,” he says.
Now 72, Brewer is handing over the day-to-day operation of his facilities to Rives Potts, the manager of Brewer Pilots Point Marina in Westbrook, Conn., for the past 33 years. “I promoted myself and will step back a bit now, and visit the yards about half as much as I have done,” says Brewer, who is now CEO and chairman. “Half as much” means he’ll be visiting each of his yards about four times a year.
Potts, 64, becomes president and COO, and all yard managers will now report directly to him. “Rives has an incredible amount of energy. He’s very smart and has a great personality — that’s a great combination,” Brewer says.
Customers and vendors can expect business-as-usual under Potts. “Jack’s got some great principles that have permeated throughout the company,” Potts says. Those principles can be found in a document titled “Our Philosophy,” which Potts wrote and has framed in his office. The list of about a dozen declarations speaks of treating customers, employees and vendors with respect, honesty and fairness at all times; building long-term relationships; delivering on what is promised; doing the job right and standing by it; dealing with problems head-on and fairly; and “do not criticize, condemn or complain” about anything or anyone — even competitors.
Brewer’s approach of constantly reinvesting in the facilities and his employees, watching expenditures and paying all bills on time has been a successful one by any business standard. “Conducting business in a good manner was paramount to me from the start,” Brewer says.
Brewer was 24 years old with a business degree from Rutgers University when he found his way into the marine industry. A short stint at Bankers Trust proved to be a wrong fit, so he went back to school — Columbia Business School. He was a year into his degree when his father, John Sr., approached him with a proposition. “He said, ‘If I buy this marina, will you run it if I leave you alone?’ ” Brewer recalls.
That marina was Halls Boats, a tired little facility with about 16 slips and 20 boats in storage in Mamaroneck, in New York’s Westchester County. It was situated alongside R.G. Brewer Hardware, the hardware and marine supply store run by the Brewer family since 1879.
Despite having no experience running a marina — in this case a failing marina — Brewer saw his father’s proposal as a challenge and a good opportunity, so he dove headlong into marina management. “I think being new to the business helped me since I had no preconceived notions about anything,” Brewer says.
He took over with one employee, Tony, a boatyard veteran who proved to be a great teacher and mentor. “He taught me everything about running a marina,” Brewer says.
The yard came with some customers — about 35 boats, all but one wooden (a 34-foot Hatteras) and the largest a 48-foot Chris-Craft. There were no amenities, not even a bathroom. Heat was a pot belly stove. The launch ramp was a railway made of greased timbers.
“It took hours to move one boat from the water to its storage spot,” Brewer says. “I did the bills and books after work, and [my wife] Peg would type them. Fortunately, the gas station at the top of the driveway had a bathroom, as did the hardware store.”
The name was changed to Brewer Post Road Boat Yard, and the new manager set about building it up, learning the trade from the ground up. “In 1966 we created our first bubbler system. It worked OK, but we had to break up the ice when it got too thick,” he says. “Fortunately, we inherited a workboat that Derecktor Shipyards was throwing away, and between using that and chain saws, we kept the place ice-free.”
After a couple of years, Brewer removed the marine railway, dug out the mud and purchased a 30-ton Algonac hoist — it’s still in use — then poured cement over the entire yard. This allowed boats to be moved on steel dollies, which he and Tony built, and packed closer together to increase capacity — and revenue.
Brewer hammered, scraped, sanded, painted and did whatever else needed doing. He turned his marina profitable, then adjusted his game plan. In 1969 he bought Pilots Point Marina in Westbrook, Conn., which had about 135 slips and 15 acres of property. With that, Brewer had to hire his first manager.
“I was looking for someone with a strong work ethic and smarts,” he says. “My first manager was a smart guy at Derecktor Shipyards, who went to Brown University.” Brewer instilled in John McMahon his own philosophy of doing things the right way. “I want a manager who will take a property and run it as if it’s his own.” That approach pervades at all 22 yards today.
The Brewer way
As Brewer added to his marina chain, he did so prudently, buying with a keen eye for location and only when the economics made sense. “We’ve always run our properties in a business-like manner and with a good idea of what they can produce,” Brewer says. Most of the Brewer facilities have good natural harbors, he notes, adding that the group is still looking to acquire new properties, “if the situation is right.”
With each new yard, Brewer hires a manager and lets them take charge. The managers hire their own teams and set the pay scale. “I leave it to the manager to find the best guy,” he says. All Brewer managers work at their yards, from running the Travelift to working at boat shows. And manager compensation is based on the yard’s earnings.
The Brewer Group offers a health plan, 401(k), paid vacations and profit sharing to its employees, and there is an emphasis on personal responsibility. For example, the health care plan has a relatively high deductible, but it is skewed toward promoting wellness, including strategies and incentives to improve overall health. “To the outside, the company is known to be a good place to work,” Potts says.
Inter-company growth potential is also attractive to applicants, he says, as is career growth beyond Brewer. He is proud that seven of his employees have moved on to manage other yards.
Training is another integral part of employment at Brewer, beginning with programs run by various engine and systems manufacturers. In 2007, the group began holding in-house mechanical workshops, and in 2011 formalized the Brewer ABYC training program with the goal of having a master technician in every yard. This year, about 80 Brewer employees enrolled in the program, and by next spring the group expects to have 46 master techs on staff, all certified in at least three areas of expertise.
“ABYC certification is the right thing to do,” Potts says. “We want our guys to be the best they can be. It adds customer credibility. We look at ourselves as leaders in the industry, and we need to set an example.”
Technology has dramatically changed how marinas are run — from business administration to the use of composites to the tools for working on boats and engines, says Potts. “So it’s important for all of us to read as much as we can and learn as much as we can,” he says, so customers can tap that knowledge.
Potts teaches his people to take the extra step. “If the job is done, take another look at the boat you just worked on, but look at it as a customer,” he says. “Is it buttoned up right? Is the line coiled?”
To make it on a Potts crew, a good attitude and work ethic, strong skills, loyalty and experience are required. “You’re working as a team. You’ve got to work well and be someone the rest of the team wants to be around,” he says.
Potts recruits from the International Yacht Restoration School and the Landing School, but adds, “Anybody that comes along that’s good, I’ll find a job for them.”
The customer is king
Both Jack Brewer’s and Potts’ email addresses are published and easy to find by any customer. The company this year launched an option for customers to email feedback — good or bad — directly to the top.
At Pilots Point, as well as the Coyest and Greenwich Bay yards in Warwick, R.I., there is a full-time, year-round employee who organizes events and new-customer tours, and maintains customer communication through email blasts, Facebook and personal feedback. “We’re trying to meet customers where they are, as Jack has always done,” Potts says.
A Preferred Member Program offers seasonal customers two free nights of transient dockage at other BYY facilities and a fuel discount of 20 cents a gallon. Year-round customers receive six free nights and a discount of 40 cents a gallon. Both are also eligible for discounts at Mystic (Conn.) Seaport, Nantucket (Mass.) Boat Basin and numerous restaurants, delis and shops, and access to a 24-hour help line. This year the group is offering five Brewer Rendezvous events for customers.
The group focuses on customer service, with swimming pools, courtesy vans, picnic areas, grills, pavilions, gathering places and recruiting yard tenants that offer paddleboards and kayaks, restaurants and other entertainment. “Customer service is paramount,” Brewer says. “When we started out with that small yard, we could pick and choose our customers. That’s not the case anymore.”
Potts notes Brewer’s mantra: “Think about the big picture and focus on relationships rather than transactions.”
Today’s customers are more demanding, want jobs done fast, done right and at a fair price, he says. And the days when boatyards were just not a place “for women and families” is also a relic of the past, he says. Brewer yards are known for their neat appearance — with flowers and well-manicured grounds. “Our strategy is to make the properties as nice as possible and keep putting money back into the businesses. Capital investment is very important,” Brewer says.
At Pilot’s Point, Potts says his crew hosts cruises, “kid days,” charity fundraising events, picnics and scavenger hunts. “There’s stuff going on every weekend night.”
The best marinas, he says, are gradually becoming resorts — “but with a service business.”
Brewer says the reality of today’s recreation market, with its multitude of options, and families with many interests and less free time make it imperative for marinas to be a weekend destination. “Boatyards used to be pretty grungy and not a place you wanted to take the family,” he says. “We endeavored to change that.”
Beyond the horizon
Brewer and Potts agree that the marina and boatyard business is much more difficult than it was in the early days, from the clientele to the stringent regulations to the constricted economy to the capital-intensive nature of marina operation. “No question the business is a whole lot harder than it was 20 years ago,” Potts says.
“It’s a tough business,” adds Brewer. “You’ve got to really like it.”
Brewer, who owns an MJM 34z Downeast, doesn’t see his next chapter as an end note. “Why retire? he asks. “I love the business and the people. I consider it a lot of fun for the most part.”
Potts says he’s not surprised. He thinks his boss’s hobby is business, not just the marine industry but business in general, and he’s too vested in the one he created to completely step away. “I think Jack was way ahead of his time,” Potts says. “He’s a very smart guy, a very astute business guy. His crystal ball is very good.”
Meet the new president
Rives Potts was a professional sailor — project manager and a crewmember — with Dennis Conner’s Freedom/Enterprise America’s Cup campaign in the late 1970s when he was approached about managing a Brewer yacht yard. “I told them I have one thing on my mind, and that’s winning the Cup,” he says.
After Conner’s syndicate bested Alan Bond’s Australia in 1980, retaining the Cup for the New York Yacht Club, Potts moved his family from Newport, R.I., to Westbrook, Conn., to start working for Jack Brewer as manager of Pilots Point Marina. “We only had 11 guys at the time,” Potts says. The Pilots Point yard, which he has run for 33 years, now has about 85 employees, down from a prerecession high of more than 100.
“Jack’s business model for managers is to give them a great deal of responsibility and the authority to go with it,” Potts says. “He doesn’t micro-manage us at all. He lets everyone be pretty autonomous. That lack of a corporate layer keeps us very connected to our customers.”
Even with the new roles for Potts and Brewer, managers and employees will still be seeing plenty of the man at the top. “I visit the yards often. I want to make sure the property is as it should be. You can tell a lot just by walking through,” says Brewer, who knows employees by name and often picks up any litter he spots while walking around his yards.
“What Jack does very well is keep pushing people to get better,” says Potts. “That’s everyone from the bookkeepers to the guy at the gas dock.”
Potts continues to be an avid sailor and is vice commodore of the New York Yacht Club.
Click here to view the original article. Reprinted with permission from Soundings Trade Only.
A simple service model: Do what you say you're going to do
by William Sisson
July 29, 2013
When ABYC president John Adey was asked to give the commencement address at The Landing School in Arundel, Maine, this spring, he drew on his background as a boater and his background working in the industry, which includes sweeping floors at a small brokerage while in college, working in a small marina and eventually running his own marine retail business. And he drew upon a mantra of sorts at The Landing School, which reads as follows:
Superior technicians will:
- Deliver it right the first time
- Deliver it when promised
- Charge less than was quoted
- Deliver it clean
It would be hard to say that much better or more succinctly. And Adey told the 62 graduating students this June that they can build a satisfying, rewarding career by following those four principles.
After his talk, a longtime boater came up to Adey and expressed a sentiment that, unfortunately, is not unusual when boat owners get together to shoot the breeze. It had to do with the guy who works on the man’s boat. “Every time I pay this guy I always feel like I’m doing him a favor,” the boat owner told Adey. “I don’t feel like he wants my business or needs my business.”
That’s not the model for individual success or for growing our industry. “The model is do what you say you’re going to do,” Adey says. “That captures everything.”
It’s no secret that the typical frustration flash point for many boaters centers on lousy service. Although we may have hoped that the bad apples and unprofessional behavior were swept away in the Great Recession, it isn’t completely so. Things have gotten better, but old habits and old cultures die hard.
Adey is a pragmatist. Sooner or later, he says, all boats break. At that point, he continues, the industry needs the infrastructure — and the mindset — to fix them properly and provide the boater with a good customer-service experience. It doesn’t have to be a white-glove, Mercedes-Benz and cappuccino treatment, but it should be professional. “Fix it right, and fix it the first time,” Adey says. “We really want to raise the bar.”
Adey also understands the pressures and challenges of running a seasonal marine business, where you’re dealing with cost-conscious customers who demand a lot. “You try and jam 10 pounds into a 5-pound bag, and sometimes the subtleties get lost,” he says, “and that includes customer service.” He points to the Brewer chain of 22 full-service marinas from New York to Maine as an example of an organization doing things the right way in a seasonal environment.
Coincidentally, managing editor Rich Armstrong and I recently interviewed founder Jack Brewer and new Brewer Yacht Yards president and COO Rives Potts (see story on Page 36). It was no surprise that customer service, professionalism and ABYC certification were among the themes we discussed. “Customers are demanding,” says Brewer, the CEO and chairman. “They want service. They want it done now. They want it done right. And they want it at a fair price.” And, he noted, that’s the way it should be.
Adey agrees. “You need to give the customer something to believe in,” he says. “There is no more noble cause than for the customer to understand you’re looking out for his family. Safety and reliability are tough to beat.”
Potts told me that the Brewer yards are big supporters of ABYC certification. (The company had about 80 enrolled in the organization’s programs this year.) “We want our guys to be the best they can be,” says Potts, who is on the board of The Landing School. He says he’s always looking for skilled workers with the right attitude.
“The biggest thing I teach them is how to work around a boat,” Potts says. A repair job might cost several thousand dollars, but what the customer is liable to remember,” he says, “is the muddy footprint the tech left in the boat.”
“One of the things I try and do is think of the big picture and think of relationships, instead of transactions,” he says. “That’s my mantra here: It’s relationships, not transactions.”
That’s a good one to remember. So is the one about the customer being right, even when he’s acting like a horse’s patoot. “Get in an argument, and 99 percent of the time we lose,” Potts says. “So come over to their side early and come out ahead.”
There has always been demand for good people, something that’s not going to change.
“Know the boats, figure out the business side and you can excel,” Adey says. “Deliver what the customer wants. Everywhere I go, they’re screaming for trained, well-spoken people.” And, he notes, “There’s the ethics and business acumen portion of it, too. Be clean in your business practices. Own up to your mistakes.”
Have fun with the customers, don’t take yourself too seriously and keep up with technological changes, he says. When it comes to new products and technology, Adey says, “Don’t put your head in the sand. You can’t know everything, but this is your trade. When a customer says ‘What is this?’ — if you don’t know, you’re going to be knocked down a few pegs.”
Keep pace through training and certification programs, webinars, reading, and attending boat shows and trade shows such as IBEX and MDCE. He also encourages everyone in the industry to get involved at some level — local, regional, national.
“Have a stake in your industry,” Adey says. “Give something back. And every opportunity you get is a chance to forward your business and the industry.”
That’s good commencement advice for the rest of us.
Click here to view the original article from Soundings Trade Only, along with photos and comments.
Brewer to host Newport Bermuda Race prep seminars
by John Rousmaniere
July 11, 2013
The Bermuda Race Organizing Committee has named the Brewer Yacht Yard Group as the Official Boat Preparation Resource of the Newport Bermuda Race. Said BROC Race Organizing Committee Chairman Fred Deichmann, “We are very happy to welcome the Brewer Group of 22 yards in New York and New England as a member of the sponsor family for the 49th Newport Bermuda Race. The BROC is especially pleased that Brewer will bring its expertise to sailors in a series of race-preparation seminars.”
The first of Brewer’s Newport Bermuda Race Seminars will be held Saturday, September 7, at the Brewer Pilots Point Marina at Westbrook, CT. Speakers will include Rives Potts, owner-skipper of the 2010 and 2012 St. David’s Lighthouse Trophy winner Carina, and meteorologist and ocean racer Bill Biewenga. Among the topics are: entering the race, preparing for mandatory boat inspection, optimizing your boat for performance, winning strategies on the race course, and guidance on navigation, weather, and crew management.
The day-long seminar is geared both to sailors who want to improve their performance, and to those considering entering their first Newport Bermuda Race or making their first offshore passage. Presenters and Brewer staff members will be available throughout the day to answer questions. The cost is $100 per boat and entitles all crew members to attend. The proceeds will be donated to the Bonnell Cove Foundation to further safety at sea research and education. For more information on the seminar and to register, please visit www.byy.com/NBR or contact Lynn Oliver at email@example.com.
The 2014 Newport Bermuda Race will start on June 20, 2014, off Castle Hill, Newport R.I. For more information about the race, visit www.BermudaRace.com.
Brewer Yacht Yard Group is the Official Boat Preparation Resource of the Newport Bermuda Race. Experienced staff at Brewer yards from New York to Maine will help you and your crew plan and prepare for a successful race. http://www.byy.com/
Brewer True Value Hardware is Best in Westchester!
June 25, 2013
We’ve known for years that the R.G. Brewer Hardware Store in Mamaroneck, NY is the best place in town to get both household and marine supplies—and now it’s official!
Last Monday, Westchester Magazine published its “2013 Best of Westchester® Winners” and we’re proud to report that Brewer True Value Hardware is on that list. Voted best in the region by Westchester Magazine readers, the hardware store started by BYY founder Jack Brewer’s grandfather took home top honors in the “The Best Home Décor and Design” category.
Brewer customers might not know that Brewer Yacht Yards all started with the hardware store on Post Road in front of the Brewer Post Road Boat Yard. For more on the R.G. Brewer Hardware and the history of Brewer Yacht Yards, see our video on our BYY YouTube Channel. And for all your marine and hardware needs, call or visit R.G. Brewer Hardware, located at 161 East Boston Post Road, Mamaroneck, NY. Tel 914-698-3232, where service has never gone out of style!
Visit R.G. Brewer Hardware Store online at www.rgbrewer.com!
Take-A-Kid Fishing at Brewer Greenwich Bay Marina
June 25, 2013
Brewer Yacht Yards is proud to have partnered with The Rhode Island Saltwater Anglers Association in hosting “Take-A-Kid-Fishing Day” at Brewer Greenwich Bay Marina. The event, now in its sixteenth year, is an annual tradition on Greenwich Bay. Founded on the premise that every member of The Ocean State should have a chance to experience Rhode Island’s most beautiful resource firsthand, “Take-A-Kid-Fishing Day” gives kids an opportunity to go boating. This year, volunteers took close to 300 children, many of which have never been out on the water, for a morning of fishing followed by a cookout.
It was a wonderful day and we are thankful for the time and energy hundreds of volunteers put into the event to make it such a success. Like Brewer Yacht Yards and Brewer Greenwich Bay Marina on Facebook to see more pictures. And don’t forget to check out On the Outs Productions coverage of the event!
Jack Brewer on the right people and the marina business
by William Sisson
June 12, 2013
Sometimes the simplest question yields the most revealing answer. Near the end of an hour-plus-long interview with successful marina entrepreneur Jack Brewer, we asked him what he believed was his company’s greatest asset.
“Our people,” he answered without hesitation. “We’ve had people working with us for 20, 25, 30 years. It’s incredible.”
Soundings Trade Only managing editor Rich Armstrong and I had started the interview with Brewer on a similar theme: the importance of the customer.
“Without the customer, what do we have?” asked Brewer, 72, who during the last half-century has built his company from a single small boatyard to 22 full-service marinas from New York to Maine. “Zip.”
Brewer continued: “Customers are demanding. They want service. They want it done now. They want it done right. And they want it at a fair price.”
And, he noted, that’s the way it should be.
Cash may be king, but Brewer, a pioneer developer of the modern destination marina, added, “You’re not going to have any cash without the customer.”
Brewer has been in the marina and boatyard business since 1964. He is turning over day-to-day operations of his nearly two dozen facilities to Rives Potts, the longtime manager of Brewer Pilots Point Marina in Westbrook, Conn. As CEO and chairman, Brewer will continue to focus more on the financial side of the business. Yard managers will now report directly to Potts, the new president and COO, who will carry on Jack Brewer’s tradition of regular yard visits to talk with managers, employees and customers.
“I’ll step back a bit and visit half as much as I used to do,” said Brewer, who describes the changes as evolutionary, seeing how closely he and Potts have worked together for years. A modest man who understands the fundamentals of running profitable boatyards, Brewer said, “I’m not much on titles.”
Jack Brewer is a sharp student of this business. He believes strongly in conducting business the right way, which means paying bills on time, reinvesting in your yards and people, taking care of customers and employees and expanding in smart ways.
“Jack has some great, great principles that have permeated down through the company,” Potts said. “He’s a very smart, astute businessman. He keeps his eye on the ball. I think his hobby is business, not just our business, but all business and how it works. We can all take lessons from other industries.”
Brewer essentially learned the business from the bottom up, right when it was undergoing a seminal transformation from wood to fiberglass, from mom-and-pop operations to what the best yards and marinas have become today. He started by running the small Post Road Boat Yard in Mamaroneck, N.Y., which his father purchased in 1964 and turned over to him to operate.
Brewer hammered together floats; learned to scrape, sand, paint and varnish; broke ice in winter when the bubblers failed. The yard had maybe 18 slips. The largest boat was a 48-foot Chris-Craft, and all but one (a Hatteras 34) were wood.
“I had no preconceived notions about anything,” said Brewer, who was then a young man in his early 20s, a graduate of Rutgers with a year of business school at Columbia under his belt, along with a short stint working at Bankers Trust. “I knew I didn’t want to work for a large company, and this was the extreme.”
Learning by first doing the hands-on work himself has served Brewer well. “We know that everything we do, he’s done,” Potts said.
The company will start a year-long celebration of its 50th anniversary in September at the Newport (R.I.) International Boat Show.
“It’s a whole new world,” Brewer said. “Boatyards used to be pretty grungy and not a place you’d want to bring your families. We’ve tried to change that.”
Now most Brewer yards have swimming pools (some more than one), along with a range of activities, from tennis to basketball to bocce and more. Increasingly, they have become destinations in and of themselves.
Brewer remains positive on the future of the industry. “I think so much depends on the economy,” he said. “People need to have confidence in the future and what is happening in the country. I’m definitely a bull.” But, he noted, “It’s good to mix being a realist with being a bull.”
To be successful in the capital-intensive marina business requires watching expenditures carefully, Brewer said. People get in trouble, he noted, when they take money out of the business that they should be reinvesting. Or when they borrow too much or purchase something they really don’t need.
“I think it’s a tough business,” he said. “You really have to love it. Every once in a while I look back, and I’m amazed. I’ve been very, very lucky.”
Look for an in-depth story on Jack Brewer and the company he founded in an upcoming issue of Trade Only.
Click here to view the original article from Soundings Trade Only, along with photos and comments.
History of Brewer Yacht Yards
by Olivia Schleicher, Marinalife
June 6, 2013
Brewer Yacht Yards is well known for running 22 of the largest full-service marine facilities in the Northeast, all of which are popular destinations for cruisers. It’s hard to believe that it all started with Jack Brewer’s great-grandfather back in 1879, when he opened a hardware store in Mamaroneck, New York. While Jack was enrolled at Columbia Business School, his father called and asked him if he would be interested in running the boatyard next to the hardware store. His father said he would leave him completely alone. There was only Jack and a talented all purpose worker who taught Jack a lot. In addition to bottom painting and carpentry during the day, Jack was doing the bookkeeping at night. “Jack was one of the first people in the boating industry to treat his boatyard as a business, not a hobby,” says Doug Domenie, vice president and general manager of Brewer Dauntless Shipyard. Once the yard became financially successful, Jack decided to expand, and in 1969 purchased Pilots Point Marina, in Westbrook, CT. From there Brewer Yacht Yards grew dramatically, expanding further in New York and Connecticut, then on into Rhode Island, Massachusetts, and Maine.
This year, Jack Brewer decided to step down as president, and asked Rives Potts to take on the position. Jack will still be involved as the company’s chairman, and will continue to visit each marina, though not as frequently. The company is celebrating its 50th anniversary next year, and is continually looking to acquire new marinas if the right opportunity comes along.
The Brewer Yacht Yard philosophy is one thing that Jack has standardized at each location. He makes sure that facilities provide the best level of customer service by paying close attention to customers’ specific needs. The company strives to ensure that all its facilities are well maintained, constantly updated and kept immaculate, while also staying stocked with the best equipment and tools. Jack Brewer gives managers at each location full authority to run the boatyards as if they were their own. The average manager has been with the organization for 22 years, indicating an extremely high employee satisfaction and loyalty. Jack says that the key to his company’s success is “treating the customer right and having a little bit of good luck along the way.” He continues, “I have been blessed with really great managers, and that has enabled us to grow into the business we are today.” No matter what Brewer destination you choose, you’ll know that you are in excellent hands.
Click here to view the original article by Marinalife.