Already well into what promises to be one of the longest boating seasons in recent memory, local businesses are riding high despite a departure at one of Lake Wylie’s more identifiable marinas.
SouthTown Watersports, which rented space at the Pier 49 showroom in Steele Creek since 2010, moved last month to 3333 Scott Futrell Drive in Charlotte. The new location near I-85 and Billy Graham Parkway gives SouthTown more space and a central spot for the regional boating community.
“We feel this location will put us in an ideal place in the middle of all three local lakes – Lake Norman, Lake Wylie and Mountain Island Lake,” reads a notice online at southtownwatersports.com.
Jerrica Decker, office worker with the company, lives in Lake Wylie and says the commute isn’t bad. She figures customers won’t have a hard time finding their way to the 13,000-square-foot indoor showroom, where the company will continue or expand offerings including boat sales, service and water sport pro shop gear.
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“It takes about 20 to 25 minutes,” Decker said of her trip. “We still have a lot of customers from where we were.”
At Pier 49, business is looking up, too. Lew Quinn of The Carolina Boat Club said his group has about 70 members using their 10 boats. They are considering adding more boats and capping membership at 120.
“We had to keep buying new boats, because we kept getting new members,” Quinn said.
The boat club began in late 2009. The marina is nearly 20 years old, and has “just a very few” covered boat slips remaining. Boat service also is provided on-site. The boat club offers rides from a standard pontoon to a 35-foot yacht. Boating season started powering up in March this year, Quinn said, since “we didn’t have a winter.” The club also is benefitting from the economy.
While many within the boating community – new boat sales, slip rentals – might suffer from a weak or unstable economy, a boat club can capitalize on it. When people aren’t ready to purchase a boat and slip, Quinn said, a boating club membership at about one-third the price can be attractive for recreational dollars.
Proof of how well the businesses are doing comes in the recent move itself, workers say. As SouthTown expanded to a larger space with a regional draw, the marina and boat club also needed more space. During the past several years, they’ve added a covered boat space on land and another dock in the water.
“We were running out of parking space,” Quinn said.
SouthTown owner Danny Tolentino said many of their customers already have followed them, and they’re picking up more from neighboring lake communities. SouthTown’s success, he said, is a good sign for the business taking place at Pier 49.
“There were two companies working out of that space, and we were there,” he said. “We just kind of outgrew the space.”
This year marks the 10th anniversary of SouthTown Riders, a Christian ministry started after a collection of friends wakeboarding on Lake Wylie began hosting wakeboarding camps near Tega Cay. The effort led to regional and national travel holding camps, and working with youth groups and inner city children. The group also published a youth devotional for a national wakeboarding tour. SouthTown Watersports was later added as a sales and service operation.
Tolentino said the wakeboarding camps will continue on Lake Wylie, and will go “back to our roots” by launching at Nivens Creek.