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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.
New "Brewer Wi-Fi"
May 17, 2013
This season, Brewer Yacht Yards is pleased to unveil our new, improved, and fully functional Wi-Fi system that will be managed in-house by our own IT department. After a long winter of setting up Wi-Fi in all 22 Brewer locations, our IT team has declared the installation is complete. More than 100 antennae were up and running at the end of April.
The Brewer IT team was mindful of the importance of fully vetting any new system prior to deploying it. After thoroughly researching and testing new Wi-Fi technology, our IT team chose a Meraki system. This new system will better serve the tremendous demand our marinas have experienced since we first began, several years ago, to offer courtesy Wi-Fi service to Brewer Yacht Yard members and guests.
Connecting to the Wi-Fi is simple. When you enter any Brewer marina, you may find that your smartphone, tablet, or laptop will ask if you want to connect to our "Brewer Wi-Fi" wireless network. If not, look for "Brewer Wi-Fi" in the list of available wireless networks, open your browser, and follow the on-screen instructions. Should you need any assistance, our IT staff is happy to help. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org or call (203) 653-7100 for support from 8 am to 8 pm, 7 days a week. Be sure to include your name, home yard, and slip number.
We know that being "connected" is important to many customers and we hope you enjoy the upgraded technology at all of the Brewer locations you visit this season.
May 17, 2013
Brewer Greenwich Bay Marina recently began its "Seamanship Series," a collection of educational and instructional lectures on boating topics. Capt. Kent Dresser of Confident Captain/Ocean Pros, a renowned maritime training facility based in Newport, RI, led the fist discussion on Saturday, May 11. The seminar, entitled "Handle Your Boat Like the Pros," focused on basic seamanship and etiquette with a particular focus on docking.
Kent, a veteran tug boat captain and founder of Confident Captain, used a prepared slideshow to begin the discussion of basic rules of seamanship, stressing the importance of having a plan on the water so as to not be caught off-guard while boating. That could range from passing other vessels to radio protocol. He also demonstrated docking techniques for both power and sail boats using diagrams and a simulator program. The remainder of the time Kent outlined some of the rules and laws for boating, providing sources to those members who wanted to look into them further. During this well attended event, the engaged participants had the opportunity to ask Kent an array of questions.
Please consider attending our next seminar on "Radar and GPS" at Brewer Greenwich Bay Marina on Thursday, May 30 at 6:30 pm. Our following seminar entitled, "A Day on the Bay" will be on Thursday, June 6 at 6:30 pm. Each lecture is two hours and only $15 dollars per person. To RSVP to these events, email Adam Plante, Director of Customer Relations at Greenwich Bay, at email@example.com.
Sign Up Now to Participate in the First Season of BYY Rendezvous!
April 25, 2013
We are gearing up for a fantastic 2013 cruising season and want to invite our Brewer Preferred Members to participate in our BYY Rendezvous throughout the Northeast. We have partnered with pillars of the nautical community including Mystic Seaport, the Maine Maritime Museum, and the Herreshoff Marine Museum & America's Cup Hall of Fame with get-togethers at some of the most historic and picturesque venues in New England. These destinations are must-sees for every boater and in many cases our Rendezvous coincide with exciting events happening in those ports, such as Mystic Seaport's Annual Sea Music Festival and the Salem Jazz & Soul Festival. In addition to what these locations have to offer, Rendezvous participants—Green and Gold card holders—will receive exclusive privileges, discounted rates, and a chance to socialize at BYY "docktail" parties. And as always, our members will have the full support of our knowledgeable BYY staff. With five Rendezvous this summer, there is sure to be one that fits your schedule!
Make your reservation to the following Rendezvous using the contact information listed below:
- Mystic Seaport, Mystic, CT: June 7-9
- Maine Maritime Museum, Bath, ME: July 19-21
- Herreshoff Marine Museum & America's Cup Hall of Fame, Bristol, RI: July 26-28
- Brewer Hawthorne Cove Marina, Salem, MA: August 16-18
- Brewer Hawthorne Cove Marina Manager, Ben Kopp: (978) 740-9890, firstname.lastname@example.org
- Mystic Seaport, Mystic, CT: September 6-8
Please note that space is limited at these events so be sure to make your reservations soon! For more information please contact Brookes Moody at (860) 399-7906 or email her at email@example.com.
We Want to Hear from You!
April 8, 2013
One year ago, we invited you to fill out an electronic survey and share your suggestions and thoughts with us. We took your input to heart and allowed your responses to help guide some of our decision making. We want this dialogue to continue. This year, rather than conducting formal surveys, we are inviting your feedback via our website, www.byy.com. On every page you will find a "feedback" link near the top menu bar. Please click and share! Let us know how we're doing, where we can improve, what you enjoy, and what's missing in your Brewer experience. Your feedback will remain confidential. If you choose to include your name and contact info with your comments, we will personally follow up with you. Thank you and please keep the feedback coming!
Several BYY Rendezvous Scheduled for 2013, Reserve Now for the First Event at Mystic Seaport
March 11, 2013
Space is filling up fast! If you’d like to join us for the first-ever BYY Rendezvous at Mystic Seaport, June 7 - 9, make your reservations now. Call Len Sawyer in the Mystic Seaport Dock Office at 860-572-5391 (or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org) before this special event is sold out.
If you can’t make it to Mystic in June, consider joining us for the next BYY Rendezvous, scheduled for July 19 – 20 at Maine Maritime Museum in Bath, Maine. Other BYY Rendezvous are in the works! Stay tuned for information about these additional gatherings, including one in Salem this August.
Each BYY Rendezvous will include an evening “docktail” social and a morning coffee hour. While enjoying these idyllic destinations, participants will not only have access to private tours and special rates, but they will also enjoy the company and camaraderie of other BYY members and that of BYY staff and management as well. Outside of BYY organized social events, members will have plenty of time to explore, independently, all that these historic ports have to offer.
Brewer Yacht Yards & Mystic Seaport Expand Partnership with Rendezvous Scheduled for June
March 8, 2013
Last season, Brewer Yacht Yards partnered with Mystic Seaport as a way to expand the benefits of the Brewer Preferred Member Card program. Through this unique partnership, transient dockage discounts were extended to Brewer members when visiting Mystic Seaport. This season, the partnership continues with new, unique opportunities. Now, benefits not only include discounted transient dockage – entitling everyone on board to free museum entrance – but also discounts on museum tickets, sailing programs, and special events.
To kick off the 2013 season, Brewer Yacht Yards is sponsoring a BYY rendezvous at Mystic Seaport, June 7 – 9. Mystic’s annual Sea Music Festival takes place that same weekend, so the weekend should provide fun for all. The BYY/Mystic rendezvous is limited to 30 boats and reservations will be accepted on a first-come, first-served basis.
If you’d like to sign up for this fun event, contact Len Sawyer in the Mystic Seaport Dock Office at 860-572-5391. Be sure to state your BYY home port affiliation when making your reservation to receive BYY dockage and event discounts.
BYY members who participate in the rendezvous will also be invited to join in two BYY sponsored social gatherings, one an evening “docktail” the other a morning “coffee”.
Brewer Yacht Yards is proud to support the Seaport’s mission to preserve and celebrate our rich marine heritage. It is our sincere hope that BYY members will take advantage of this unique opportunity and enjoy the exclusive benefits of being part of the Brewer Yacht Yard family.
Remember, the Brewer Preferred Member Card not only affords BYY members two nights dockage at Mystic Seaport at a $0.50/ft discount, it also provides discounted dockage and fuel at all 22 Brewer marinas!
Brewer to Support Boaters Impacted by Superstorm Sandy at Atlantic City Boat Show
January 28, 2013
If your vessel was lost or damaged during Superstorm Sandy and you have list of questions about how to approach repairs, deal with insurance claims, find a slip for this summer, or purchase a new boat, please visit Brewer Yacht Yards and Brewer Yacht Sales at the Atlantic City Boat Show, February 6 – 10. Brewer Yacht Yards' booths will be staffed by experienced personnel ready to answer your questions. Staff will also be available to schedule appointments and meet with boat owners on location in order to view damaged boats and offer additional, hands-on support.
We're here to help. See you at the show!
Response & Delivery
January 25, 2013
Two months after Superstorm Sandy clobbered the northeastern seaboard, New Jersey State Police were still looking for the owners of 500 boats, all vessels scattered by the storm. In the hardest hit areas, between Atlantic City and Staten Island, it is reported that nearly every boat was damaged, most by high winds and water levels that floated boats blocked for dry storage. The storm also destroyed the physical infrastructure of the region’s marinas and boat yards, leaving local facilities without the capacity to repair boats or respond to the needs of their customers.
Anxious to assist fellow boaters and offer professional support to industry colleagues, Brewer Yacht Yards sent top-level team members to the area, immediately following the storm. This coordinated and centralized response effort was designed to help guide boat owners through the insurance process, and get boats to Brewer facilities where repairs could begin promptly.
"Teams from our various yards are lending their expertise and time in the region, providing estimates and guiding boat owners through the insurance maze," says Kit Will of Brewer Pilots Point Marina. "It seems like Brewer Yacht Yards' good reputation has helped expedite things, with insurers frequently giving the go-ahead to move boats to Brewer facilities, even before they've made a final determination of what course to take."
By mid December, 12 boats from the area had already been delivered to Brewer Yacht Yards for repair.
"Another 36 boats are on our roster, each at various stages of estimating damage, coordinating with insurance companies, and waiting for yard assignment and delivery," says Kit.
Getting boats where they need to be for repairs has required significant planning and effort. While some vessels have gone over the road, others have gone by water. Travelling by water has required special care, since the vessels being moved are damage. For these deliveries, Brewer crews have found safety in numbers.
"We delivered five of the boats in one day," says Kit. "Departing at four in the morning, we sent 12 of our people down to Staten Island by caravan. We were able to make the 110 mile trek back, as a flotilla, in about 16 hours."
While most yards reached their capacity for accepting new repair jobs before the New Year, several years' worth of work will continue to come from the area. Brewer Yacht Yards will remain an active part of the storm response.
Today, even as repair work commences in Brewer service bays, a mobile Brewer command center has been set up in the region, so Brewer personnel can continue performing estimates and offering advice. This mobile unit is another example of how Brewer Yacht Yards is supporting the region and its boaters in every way possible.
Superstorm Sandy, Recovery & Outreach
December 19, 2012
Over the last few weeks, through invitations from boat owners and others, select crews of Brewer Yacht Yard personnel and managers have made several trips to the areas hardest hit by Superstorm Sandy. These teams have provided support to industry colleagues, as well as estimates and advice to owners of vessels damaged during the storm.
"Having been through the insurance claim process many times, we have taken the lead with insurers so that claims are handled in a fair, prompt, and worry-free manner," says Rives Potts, General Manager of Brewer Pilots Point Marina. "We are also coordinating the logistics of getting vessels to our yards before winter sets in, either by truck or water, so that work can begin promptly to repair and return as many vessels as possible to the area before next summer's boating season."
While many of the impacted facilities face a long road to full recovery, Brewer Yacht Yards were very fortunate to have sustained only minor infrastructure damage. Knowing all too well that, but for the whims of nature, this situation might easily have been reversed – and could be sometime in the future – Brewer Yacht Yard management feels compelled to reach out and extend a hand wherever needed.
"We admire the perseverance and resolve shown by those in areas hardest hit," says Rives. "But the damage is beyond anything we have seen in our business lifetimes. Our hearts go out to our colleagues and fellow boaters; we will continue to help in any way we can. Getting the marine facilities of New Jersey back on their feet and boaters back in their slips are important goals for all of us. We are happy to be in a position to provide guidance on insurance and repair matters, and estimates free of charge, regardless of where the repairs end up taking place," he says. "We know it is to everyone's benefit to get the New Jersey marine industry back to full strength as quickly as possible, and we hope we can help achieve this goal through outreach and partnership."
Refer-a-Friend Campaign Extended
The Brewer Refer a Friend campaign, launched in Spring 2011, has been successful in introducing new boaters to the Brewer family this season. The success of the program is attributed to the fact that both loyal Brewer customers – as well as new customers – benefitted with a 5% savings off of their slip charges.
Continuing upon that success, Brewer recently announced that the program will be expanded to include both 2012/13 winter storage customers AND 2013 Brewer summer slip customers. It's Brewer's way of rewarding loyal customers for inviting their friends to become part of the Brewer family.
The way it works: An existing Brewer customer refers a friend to become a NEW 2012/13 winter storage customer – or a 2013 Brewer slip customer – and both will save 5% off slip or storage charges!
To date, dozens off boaters have benefitted from the referral program. Additionally, after becoming a seasonal customer at Brewer, boaters receive the Brewer Preferred Member Card, which provides free nights of transient dockage at other Brewer yards. Click here for more information on Brewer's Preferred Member program.
Click here to review the Refer-a-Friend coupon for details and specifics.