Business buoys Marine shops
While some worry that high gas prices may sink the economy, area marine shops are so far staying afloat despite pricey fuel.
Some are reporting a recent slowdown in business at the same time that gas prices are higher.
Maggie Taylor, owner of Jetstream Concepts, said the marine repair and modification business has seen a slump in the last few weeks after a strong first quarter. This is the time of year when anglers bring their boats in for servicing.
"It just seems like the last couple of weeks have been slow," Taylor said. "It does seem odd to us we're not busy."
The nearby Feather River is an attraction to anglers. And it has lured a few businesses to the area to service recreational boating in the area. With gas prices rising, one might think boat-related sales would take a financial hit as consumers tighten their spending, nixing extras like that weekend trip to the lake.
A marine manufacturing company that supplies accessories for thirsty wakeboarding boats says gas prices don't seem to be hurting business.
"Nobody's canceled any orders because of gas," said Nathan Ramirez, owner of Launch Wakeboard Towers in Yuba City.
Ramirez thinks people will get out on the water despite the cost of fuel.
"For me, I'll give up a lot of things, but when it comes to my peace of mind and relaxation, I'll do what I have to do to get the boat out."
At least some boaters must feel the same way, judging from his work load.
Spring is Ramirez's peak season. He's done 20 boats so far this year, with other people on a waiting list. By this week, he expected to be up to 25. Three boats were in his 3,000-square-foot shop last week for a wakeboard tower installation. Last year, he completed 28 jobs from April through June.
Ramirez started the Poole Boulevard business in 1999. He's capitalizing on his love of wakeboarding - a sport like water skiing but using a board instead of skis - with custom fabricated wakeboard towers for boats. Starting at $2,000, the aluminum boat towers hold the boards, provide a place to mount speakers, lights and accessories, and serve as a towing anchor.
"The most unique thing about what we do is it's all custom hand-built," Ramirez said.
Jetstream's business is in a different segment of boating - fishing boats. The company reports great sales earlier this year.
Taylor thinks word of mouth and a lack of competitors in jet boat repairs has helped Jetstream Concepts triple its sales for the first quarter of this year compared with a year ago. The Burns Drive business specializes in aluminum fishing boat repair and modifications with an emphasis on jet boats. It was started in 2003.
"I don't think our growth is necessarily in spite of gas prices," said Taylor, who owns the business with her husband, Phil. "The word is out we're available in this area, they have that option. There are not many places in the Sacramento area that specialize in jet boats."
Like Ramirez, Taylor does not think gas prices will make people give up boating though they may seek closer-in fishing spots and may not drive as far.
"My opinion is fishermen are going to find the money to fish," Taylor said.
One of the longest-running marine shops in the area, Johnson's Bait and Tackle, has seen accessory sales that are flat - about the same as last year.
"I would have hoped to see a gain, but we didn't see one because of the gas increases," said Bob Boucke, owner of the Garden Highway business.
He said gas prices probably hurt him a little bit. But people who buy the type of boats there do not seem too concerned. If gas is a factor, they will still use the boats - just not as much. Or they might not drive as far to put their craft in the water.
"As far as I can tell, it hasn't cut back the sales too much yet," Boucke said.
Boucke added a new line of Edge Marine boats two months ago. He's sold a few of the 20-to-24-foot aluminum craft which sell from $30,000 to $80,000. Because he just started selling them, it was impossible to say whether gas prices had any effect on sales.
Appeal-Democrat reporter John Dickey can be reached at 749-4711. You may e-mail him at email@example.com.