Shop talk with Greg Smith and Tom Matson of Afton Marina & Yacht Club

Published On: March 1, 2013Categories: In the Shop

What unique design elements are built into your products?

We fabricate high-end marine canvas and upholstery. We use only the highest quality products in our tops and enclosures, and our workmanship is second to none.

What other products, other than marine products, do you produce?

We will do work on anything that comes through our doors. We have fabricated carpet runners for a coach bus, made and installed a patio awning on a residence, and repaired pool covers. We also have a Sinclair Triad Wedge welder for use on vinyl seams. We use this to fabricate covers for our marina’s covered slips, as well as those at other area marinas. The canvas department is also responsible for our entire marina’s winter shrink-wrapping needs.

How do you deal with scheduling and handling customers?

Customer calls are handled directly by either Tom or Greg. Whoever has first contact with a customer generally does the initial estimate, depending on where the boat is located. Greg normally handles the estimates to the north of the marina, and Tom handles estimates to the south. Projects are completed on a first-come/first-served basis.

Who are your main customers: dealers, boat yards, individuals?

Three percent of our business is from our own brokerage boat sales, 27 percent is from our marina members, and 70 percent from boaters from other marinas, area boat dealers, and walk-in clients.

What do you do to stay busy in the off-season?

Working for a marina, we have all of the other marina’s services at our disposal. Starting in September, we will start to line up winter work. This work generally comes from other area marinas as well as our own marina members. By offering discounts on labor, we can attract enough customers to keep us busy through the winter. Boats are winterized, then pulled out of the water and placed on large hydraulic trailers and moved to the yard where they are placed on blocks and stands. The boat is then shrink wrapped with plastic. When the time comes to do the work on a boat, it is moved inside our service bay or one of the marina’s two larger service bays. After the work is inspected by the customer and the balance is paid, the shrink wrap is pulled back over the boat and secured, and the boat is returned to the yard until spring. Other services offered at Afton Marina are a complete mechanical service department, fiberglass department, and a dock fabrication and welding department. We are as busy in the winter as we are in the summer.

What is your work-flow process? How are jobs completed from start to finish?

As soon as a job is sold, the project is scheduled. When the time comes for that particular project, the boat is brought inside one of the service bays where it is set on blocks. Most of our larger projects are brought inside. This way, we can stay on schedule by not having to worry about weather conditions. Windy and rainy days can wreak havoc on a tightly scheduled summer season.

What are unique things you do to market your business?

We advertise through other area marina’s newsletters, as well as regional boating publications and our own website. We also participate in the Minneapolis Boat Show every year. This five-day event draws thousands of boating enthusiasts and allows us to show examples of our products directly to our primary target market. We also cross sell our services between the various marina departments. Every department can benefit from just one customer.