Top US boat dealer launches first-in-state drystack
If your marina facilities are at full occupancy and you have a 900-person waiting list, where better to invest than in a drystack? If you are bold and venture forth where no one else has ventured in an entire US state, you have to sell an unfamiliar concept but, if you win through, you add a vibrant new boating facility. With its Quick Launch Dry Stack, Hagadone Marine Group (HMG) has turned all of these ‘ifs’ into a runaway success.
Quick Launch sits at the north end of Lake Coeur d’Alene, a natural dam-controlled lake in North Idaho in the US Pacific northwest. The 25 mile (40km) long lake, which has 109 miles (175km) of shoreline, is a popular summer tourist spot and is served by eight marinas (private and public and varying in size) and boat launches used by the public and several boat rental companies. Most of the boating activity takes place at the north end, near the town of Coeur d’Alene, and it is here that HMG Group has its various locations: a boat dealership headquarters and service centre on Blackwell Island; and three marinas on Blackwell, Silver Beach and in front of the Coeur d’Alene Resort (Boardwalk Marina). Racking boats The Quick Launch Dry Stack opened in April this year as the first drystack facility in Idaho. It is a 60ft (18m) high structure and offers 47,700ft² (4,430m²) of indoor boat storage on a five-level racking system. Around 360 single-engine boats of 18 to 30ft (5.5 to 9m) can be racked, and these are currently transferred to and from the water using two Wiggins W3.2 forklifts. Thirty-six valet slips are in place for pick-up and drop-off. Customers rent drystack slips annually and this gives them unlimited launches, gated car parking and access to a private clubhouse. The efficiency of the Wiggins machines ensures that Hagadone can launch a boat in just five minutes and the forklifts are more than up to the task, with Volvo Tier 4 engines, 50ft (15m) lift heights and solid non-marking tyres. “The first two units were delivered in January 2022, and the Hagadone team was so happy with them and the facility was growing so rapidly that they ordered a third truck, which is set to be delivered in May 2023,” Wiggins Lift Company’s Micah McDowell told Marina World. “Our factory technician set the first two machines up back in January, and has been there once since set up to check in and remarked how large, impressive and busy the new facility is.” Busy it certainly is, with all slips sold out before construction was completed, and it remained as busy as expected during its inaugural season. This is not just a positive result for HMG, as president Craig Brosenne explains: “We’re very excited about the effect Quick Launch will have on the local economy, giving people additional and improved access to not only the lake, but also to the businesses of North Idaho,” he said. “We believe this will bring millions of additional dollars to Coeur d’Alene’s community.” The $15 million project was supervised by John Barlow, who has completed a great deal of infrastructure for the Hagadone Corporation including the Coeur d’Alene Resort in 1986, and the golf course with its famous floating green in 1992. The design team included Welch Comer Engineering and architect Kol Nelson of BP Design Works. The general contractor was TW Clark Construction of Spokane. The complex project took over four years to plan and approve. As it is built on an island, along with the rest of the group’s flagship headquarters, soil and water environmental considerations were paramount and strict protocols were followed every step of the way. Location, location Lake Coeur d’Alene is in a beautiful natural location but how important is boating in a landlocked state? And, if the winter bites hard, how long is the season? According to a study undertaken by Boise State University in 2016, 80,691 households spent a total of $335.3 million on boat related expenses in Idaho in 2015. Boat ownership and usage is concentrated in the most populated of its 44 counties and those that have water. Coeur d’Alene (in Kootenai County) falls in the midst of the top counties in terms of expenditure but, compared to many other Top 100 boat dealers, HMG is in a relatively remote location, in a small market with a lower-than-average household income. The dealership overcomes this by having a higher market share penetration and constantly finding new and creative ways, like Quick Launch Club, to market to customers. The vast majority of HMG boat owners have homes in North Idaho or western Washington (residents of the state of Washington comprise the third largest group of boat owners registered in the state). Customers also come from Canada, Montana and central Idaho – and all can enjoy the benefits not only of HMG’s marinas but its wealth of additional boat service and hospitality offerings. Offering good service is second nature. Hagadone Corporation places great emphasis on ‘Great Guest Moments’, and this hospitality mindset covers every boating customer interaction. “Our people know the art of truly serving,” says Brosenne, and this art dates back to when the group first started out as marina owners and lake cruise operators. Purchasing a dealership in 2004 led to the official formation of HMG as the team set about transforming a mom-and-pop operation selling a few dozen boats a year into a greatly expanded boat dealership, wooden boat building and repair operation, and a substantial off-site boat storage facility. The dealership – family-owned and overseen by Brad and Todd Hagadone, the sons of Duane Hagadone, founder in 1986 of the Coeur d’Alene Resort luxury waterfront hotel – now owns and operates the largest single-point service centre for small boats in the USA and is a model facility. Many dealerships have multiple stores and chains in different areas but HMG has everything in one package: sales, service, detail, cruise boats, marinas and an on-water bar. The team believes this makes a major difference in the customer experience, from first impressions to a better buying experience and faster service response. The company continues to increase outdoor storage facilities and can now store 2,500 boats indoors. The 360-boat capacity drystack also stores a further 85 vessels in its aisle space during the winter. HMG has also turned a major liability – a short term boating season – into a major strength. At a latitude of 48°, Lake Coeur d’Alene has a maximum boating season of 90 days and, during the winter, temperatures can drop well below freezing and remain there for weeks at a time. To ensure year-round success, the dealership has emphasised and built infrastructure for off-season storage and service, and thoroughly marketed these programmes. This was another driver for the Quick Launch Club facility. Part of this service is a repair and maintenance offering that is particularly comprehensive. The Hagadone Marine Service Center, which opened in 2017, includes two 16,000ft² (1,500m²) facilities for boat service, glass fibre work, detail and rigging and has 20 roll-up door service bays providing space for up to 40 technicians. There is a 3,600ft² (334m²) wash bay facility and a 40,000lb (18,140kg) stationary crane to handle boats as they come in and go out on tractor-trailers. The parts department has three counters for quick service and a $1 million parts inventory so guests can maximise their time on the water. Happy customers The Quick Launch Dry Stack has added completely new and independent infrastructure adjacent to, but apart from, Blackwell Island Marina, which continues to be its own operation. Quick Launch member boaters say they appreciate the new clubhouse with its café, cocktail bar and take-away food services, as well as its private gated parking area. The valet concierge service has also been a big hit offering delivery of gear directly to the tenant’s boat, both from the tenant’s car as well as from the clubhouse. The ethos is for quality service, with strong focus on giving customers a worry-free day out on the lake. “It was important that this facility meet the same high standards as the other Hagadone hospitality properties, including the Coeur d’Alene Resort,” Brosenne emphasised.