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February 20, 2013

Locals ready to kick season off with Boat Show

By Julie Snyder and Kristyne E. Demske
C & G Staff Writers

With the lake finally frozen and snow still covering the ground, it may be a bit hard to think that, in just a few months, it will be time to launch boats out on Lake St. Clair.

But local brokers and dealers hope the 2013 Detroit Boat Show will get residents dreaming about getting back on the lake, and bring them into the showroom.

Dave Giles, owner of Great Lakes Yacht Sales at Miller Marina on Jefferson Avenue in St. Clair Shores — in the heart of the Nautical Mile — said the Detroit Boat Show provides a great opportunity for Michiganders to start dreaming of summertime and fun again.

“We all stay in our houses for the winter months,” he said. By going to see the show, “You can go out and get a sense of why we put up with this weather.”

John Kloka, a sales professional of 18 years at Hideaway Yacht Sales on Jefferson Avenue in Harrison Township, echoed Giles’ thoughts.

He said the Detroit Boat Show officially kicks off the spring boating season, and the most experienced boaters know that, in order to be ready to hit the water once the weather breaks, it’s important to purchase a boat now.

“There’s a lot of excitement right now; a lot of pent-up desire to get out there on the water,” Kloka said.

Kloka said Hideaway, which has been in business in Harrison Township for more than 50 years and was launched 100 years ago in Detroit by the Velger Family, will have one of the biggest displays at the boat show, with 40 boats on-site for some hands-on perusing.

Hideaway Yacht Sales is one of the world’s largest Rinker dealers, Kloka said, so obviously the line will be on display at the show this week. As will lines like Sea Hunt, Center Console, Hurricane deck boats, Xcursion pontoons, and Polar Kraft fishing boats.

Giles said they bring a “mobile showroom” to the show with hundreds of listings of “previously enjoyed boats” for visitors to peruse.

“It gets people thinking about an enjoyable lifestyle again,” he said.

This year’s show is at Cobo Center until Feb. 24. More than 60,000 people are expected to show up during its nine-day run.

Giles said, while it’s always hard to predict interest in the middle of winter, “the boat show starts getting the juices flowing.”

“We are going to the boat show,” he said. “We’re optimistic about another good year.”

He said business increased in 2012 and they have plenty of “good, clean fresh-water boats” that are priced low now. The industry bottomed out around 2008 and 2009, Giles said, and there were lots of repossessed boats flooding the market at that time.

“Now those departments in the banks are kind of twiddling their thumbs because most of those boats have been sold,” he said. “It’s equalizing the market right now. I think that part of the market has cleansed itself.”

Tom Haag, vice president of Colony Marine, said there was a 10 percent increase in boat sales during 2012 and a similar jump is projected for 2013.

“The economy’s definitely improving, which helps the marine business,” he said. “The local economy’s recovering to the point that people have a desire to get back outdoors, get back out on the lake, if they’ve been off it for awhile.”

The same can be said in Harrison Township.

“A great portion of our sales annual are generated at the boat show or are the direct result of being at the boat show,” said Kloka, adding that Hideaway will have 12 knowledgeable sales people working the floor to assist customers during the event. “I think I can speak for the other businesses, too, by saying things are really looking up; we’re experiencing a growth in new boat sales that we haven’t seen in the last few years.”

Haag said any increase in boating would also benefit St. Clair Shores, the Nautical Mile and other surrounding coastal areas.

“You’re going to see more people in the local marinas, more people in the local restaurants, more people in the local stores,” he said. “They come to our area to spend money, to stay on their boats. They provide a lot of support to the local businesses.”

At the boat show, Haag said Colony Marine, which deals in Sea Ray, Boston Whaler,
Meridian and Princecraft boats, would have the largest vessel on display, a 47-foot Sea Ray.

“The show’s expanded this year to two halls, so the people who do come down to the show will see a lot more manufacturers, a lot more dealers, a lot more product than they have in the past,” he said.

This year’s show is significantly larger than it has been in the past four years and includes more exhibitors with bigger exhibits. Visitors can immerse themselves in history at the Battle of Lake Erie Bicentennial Pavilion, walk on water in the Waterwalkerz, see a new Quadski concept boat that goes from land to water in four seconds, and more, including free giveaways, prizes and a tiki bar.

While the show will have plenty of big boats on display, Haag said the average boat sold is still about 20-22 feet. And, he said, record-low interest rates around 5 percent and automaker bonuses are “a good shot in the arm for the economy.”

“It’s a good time, if people have been out of boating for several years, it’s a good time to revisit and see what’s new and some of the new models that are out there, as well as the affordability, because they may be surprised,” he said.

The 55th annual Detroit Boat Show runs until Feb. 24 at Cobo Center in Detroit. Admission is $12 for adults; children 12 and younger are free with an adult. For complete hours and more information, visit www.detroitboat show.net or call (800) 932-2628.

You can reach C & G Staff Writer Julie Snyder at jsnyder@candgnews.com or at (586)498-1039.

You can reach C & G Staff Writer Kristyne E. Demske at kdemske@candgnews.com or at (586)498-1041.