Alliance Wake: This isn’t Russell Marine’s first year in business. When did Russell Marine open its doors?
Russell Marine: Russell Marine opened its doors as Kowaliga Marina in 1959 and rebranded as Russell Marine in 2004, so we have been in business for more than 50 years.
A: How many dealerships do you have?
RM: We have four dealerships with marinas strategically located on Lake Martin in Alabama. Lake Martin encompasses over 44,000 acres with 750 miles of shoreline. To service a lake this size, we felt that it was necessary to have four locations. All of our locations sell and service the same boat brands, have a ship’s store and a pro shop.
A: What’s the benefit to being on the water and why is Lake Martin such a great place for boating?
RM: All of our locations are full service marinas with dry stack storage and two of our marinas have wet slips. When it comes to selling and servicing boats it is a great benefit to actually be on the water. When customers are interested in purchasing a boat we can offer immediate demos. Our largest boat show is in April on the water at The Ridge Marina, and we have over 60 boats and PWCs for demo. Because we are on the water, we can offer a demo and lessons at delivery. Wakeboard and wakesurf lessons are not uncommon to someone purchasing a boat. When servicing and rigging a boat for delivery, we water test every one of our boats. We want to make sure every customer has a trouble-free and wonderful experience while boating. Lake Martin is the only Alabama lake to have been recognized as a “Treasured Alabama Lake” status by the Alabama Department of Environmental Management. We feel like there is not a better lake in North America for boating and in central Alabama, the boating season is almost year round.
A: When did wakeboarding become part of Russell Marine’s business model and how important is the growth of the sport to your stores?
RM: In the last five years wakeboarding has become a prominent part of our business. We realized that if we are going to successfully sell inboard boats such as Nautique, we needed to embrace the sport. We started selling a full line of wakeboard products from Hyperlite and CWB and started conducting wakeboard clinics. Three years ago, we teamed up with Spring2Summer Wakeboard Tournament to become their major sponsor. Last year, we teamed up the City of Montgomery to host the Riverfront Wake Battle Wakeboard Tournament. In addition, we formed Team Russell Marine, our own wakeboard and ski team. Team Russell Marine assists at all of our events including our wakeboard and ski clinics on Lake Martin.
A: Being that Russell Marine is pretty big; you must have a ton of boats? What boat brands can we find at Russell Marine?
RM: I wouldn’t necessarily say that we carry tons of boats, but we are the largest recreational boat dealer in Alabama and we carry premier brands. We carry Nautique, Sea Ray, Bayliner, Chris Craft, Hurricane, Godfrey Pontoons, and PWCs from Sea-Doo.
A: Since the first dealership opened in 1959, what’s the biggest change you’ve seen in boating?
RM: When we first opened and even through the early 90’s, the majority of the boats we sold were small under 20 feet – stern-drive or inboard boats. These boats were for skiing or just cruising around the lake. In the last 15 years with the popularity of wakeboarding, we have seen a shift in the type of boat we sell. Most of the boats we now sell are over 20 feet and a lot of them have towers. The pontoon boat has increased in popularity and has become the boat of choice for many boaters.
A: We assume you have a pro shop too. What brands can we find in your pro shop?
RM: All of our locations have a pro shop and the two major brands are Hyperlite and CWB. We also have Costa, Body Glove, Panama Jack, Reef, Doyle along with apparel from our boat brands.
A: What about events? Does Russell Marine host any wakeboard events?
RM: Russell Marine is a division of Russell Lands On Lake Martin. During the spring and summer there is some type of event almost every weekend hosted by RLOLM. It ranges from a concert at our Lake Martin Amphitheater to a Poker Run on Lake Martin. In 2014 Russell Marine will have several wakeboard clinics and host two major wakeboard tournaments. The Spring2Summer Wakeboard Tournament will be held on Lake Guntersville June 21-22. The Riverfront Wake Battle Wakeboard Tournament will be held in Montgomery on the Alabama River August 9. Both tournaments have a pro division with prize money.
A: If Russell Marine could change one thing about the boat industry what would it be and why?
RM: The sales price on boats continues to escalate creating an image that boating is not affordable to a majority of the public. It would be nice if we decrease the retail price, but we don’t see that happening. We need to get the word out that boating can be affordable. Boat financing is now available for up to 20 years at low rates. Rentals are also available and can be a good alternative to purchasing a boat.
A: What does Russell Marine want a customer to feel when they walk into one of your stores?
RM: We want our customers to feel welcomed, relaxed and excited to be a part of the boating lifestyle and know that with Russell Marine they can trust excellent service and honest relationships. We hope that everyone who walks into one of our marinas says “Wow, I’m ready to go boating and have fun!”
A: With almost 60 years in the boat business, there has had to be one missed plug. Any employees sink a new boat?
RM: Every now and then we do miss a plug but it hasn’t happened in several years. We did have a fire in the 80’s that destroyed some boats. We now have sprinkler systems throughout our storage and service facilities.
A: We know boat customers can be picky. What is the craziest request/demand you’ve ever recieved?
RM: This is not a completely crazy request but at least once a year we’ll have a customer on a demo ask the question, “With no brakes, how do you stop the boat?”
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