Archive for » October 21st, 2012«

Nevadan at Work: Boat dealer’s ready to serve hopes of harboring – Las Vegas Review

Business prospects have dramatically improved for Stuart Litjens, owner of Boulder Boats in Boulder City.

Sales have increased every year since he opened Boulder Boats on a dirt lot in 2006, and he’s expanding to a 16,000-square-foot showroom and service bay on 2.8 acres at 615 W. Lake Mead Parkway in Henderson.

It’s triple the size of his former location, which he plans to keep. That way, he gets customers going to Lake Mead from the south and from the west.

“We haven’t had a down year despite this difficult economic climate,” Litjens said. “In fact, our only challenge is we really needed to expand.”

After researching his finance options, Litjens went through Nevada State Development Corp. and Nevada State Bank to get an SBA 504 loan for $1.45 million to acquire the bank-owned property, plus about $200,000 for tenant improvements such as fencing, parking lot lights, signs and painting.

He had to put only 10 percent down on the SBA 505 loan, a commercial real estate loan through the Small Business Administration, compared with 30 percent required by most traditional lenders.

Boulder Boats has about 20 employees and will be adding 10 to
15 more when the new location opens. A grand opening is scheduled for
Nov. 3.

Litjens said he got into the boat business after his friend, Mark Walker, who’s now general manager of Boulder Boats, introduced him to water sports. After a couple of trips to Lake Powell, he was hooked.

He came back to Las Vegas and bought a boat, then another and another until he ended up with too many boats in front of his house and had to sell them.

“I owned about 15 boats before I started the business. I just enjoyed it and now it’s turned into a business,” Litjens said.

Boulder Boats is now the largest boat seller in Nevada, with a full-service boat dealership and service center. The company is a factory-authorized dealer for MasterCraft, Cobalt, Four Winns, Moomba, Supra, Axis and Berkshire Pontoons. Prices range from $5,000 for a used boat to $500,000 for the top of the line.

Question: How were you able to expand your business during a recession?

Answer: For the past three years, people would ask, “How’s business?” They anticipate me to hang my head and cry. We’ve actually increased sales every year. People ask, “What are you doing to get through the recession?” Other businesses turned off the lights and laid off employees. We did the opposite. We went out and invested in our inventory and facilities and advertising and marketing. As a result, we send boats worldwide, to Australia, Vietnam, Canada. Most of our sales are not in Nevada. So for us, the Internet is a big part of our success, but also our inventory and people. The biggest problem is not having inventory. If you’re in retail, you can’t make sales if you don’t have inventory.

Question: How has the used-boat business been for you?

Answer: The used-boat market’s been huge for us because of all the repossessions. That’s what carried us through because we go buy them at auctions and through our relationship with banks. The numbers at auction have dropped in half, so it’s really driven the price of used boats up to where they’re close to new prices. It costs me 30 percent more now for the same used boat I bought in 2009.

Question: What were your business beginnings like?

Answer: I had no clue what I was doing, how to work stuff. It took a couple of years to get efficient and not be an accident waiting to happen. We take that to our customers. We’ve got a lot of first-time buyers. Boating, docking … that’s something we stress, the education. Every boat we sell, we take them down to the lake so they can experience the whole backing up and docking. It can be stressful if you don’t know what you’re doing. When you come in to buy a boat, we ask questions. Why do you want this boat? What are you going to use it for? It takes experience. They want to buy a boat to take the kids on the lake and stay overnight, but it’s got a Fiberglas cabin and it’s 120 degrees.

Question: Why did you feel now was the time to take on debt for real estate acquisition?

Answer: It took a year to put this deal together. Our business has been built on cash flow. We don’t have a bunch of money to come in and build. Had we been at this level in 2007, we might have bought this and wouldn’t have weathered the storm. Fortunately, we were in a slow-growth mode. Not really slow. We were up 20 percent a year and this year we’re up 30 percent. We already moved from our original location in Boulder City. I bought Boulder City Marine in 2004 and started Boulder Boats in 2006. I grew and built it up and moved it and then sold it back to one of the owners I bought it from.

Question: Why not sell the Boulder City property and use the money to pay down debt?

Answer: We’re doing fine there. Our Achilles heel there was really not having enough space and service bays. Here, we’ve got a big service business and we have an indoor showroom. Now we’re reaching customers both ways to the lake. We’re going to specialize in used boats over there primarily, and also (recreational vehicles.) When we started Boulder Boats, we bought an acre and half of it was leased to a guy and we hoped he’d stay and pay $1,500 a month for our security blanket. As soon as we moved in, we realized we needed more space. Right now, we rent space all over Boulder City.

Question: How does the Henderson store complement the Boulder City?

Answer: This will be good for our customers from Las Vegas who bring their boats in for service. This will be a lot more accommodating for their needs. Being in Boulder City, on some level that hurts us on the local market. There’s this perception of being in Boulder City. It hurts us on Google and Internet marketing. When you search for Las Vegas boats, Boulder City isn’t Las Vegas, so as far as Google searches, it comes way down the list.

Question: Is there increased competition for boat business in Henderson?

Answer: There are only two other dealers on our street. One of them does motorcycles and off-road vehicles. Nobody has a business like ours, based on selection and inventory. We do 350 boats a year. That makes us one of the largest in the Western states. Most boat dealers sell one brand. We’re not trying to railroad them into our product. With our selection of 120 boats and used boats, we can get them into a boat cheaper.

Question: What’s a good sales tactic for selling a $50,000 boat?

Answer: This is one of the few things you can do as a family with teenage kids. You can’t go to the skate park with them. They don’t want you going to the mall or the movies. But they need you for this. It’s great for families. It brings them together. And it’s an investment. Sure it costs to operate and maintain a boat, but you have something with equity that you can sell. You go on a ski vacation, sure you have pictures and memories, but you have nothing to show for it.

Contact reporter Hubble Smith at hsmith@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0491.


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Amphibious vehicle to go on sale soon in US

photos by Carlos Osorio/Associated PressThe Quadski, a one-person motor boat that also drives on land, is tested Oct. 12 in Oxford, Mich. The vehicle is being billed as the first commercially available, high-speed amphibious vehicle by its makers, Michigan-based Gibbs Technologies. It's scheduled to go on sale in the U.S. by the end of this year for around $40,000. The company hopes to sell it worldwide by 2014.

Photo by Carlos Osorio

photos by Carlos Osorio/Associated Press
The Quadski, a one-person motor boat that also drives on land, is tested Oct. 12 in Oxford, Mich. The vehicle is being billed as the first commercially available, high-speed amphibious vehicle by its makers, Michigan-based Gibbs Technologies. It’s scheduled to go on sale in the U.S. by the end of this year for around $40,000. The company hopes to sell it worldwide by 2014.


DETROIT — Amphibious vehicles could soon be zooming out of James Bond’s garage — or pond — and into yours.

The Quadski — a one-person all-terrain vehicle that doubles as a personal watercraft — is being billed by its makers as the first high-speed, commercially available amphibious vehicle. It’s scheduled to go on sale in the U.S. by the end of this year for around $40,000. Michigan-based Gibbs Sports Amphibians Inc. hopes to sell the vehicle worldwide by 2014.

With its all-terrain tires and four-cylinder, BMW-supplied engine, the Quadski can drive up to 45 miles per hour on land. To take it into the water, the driver presses a button. In five seconds, the four wheels fold up and tuck into the sides. The Quadski can go a brisk 45 miles per hour in the water before a press of the button brings the wheels out again.

“You just drive straight into the water, quite fast, and keep on going. It’s sort of magic,” the founder of Gibbs Sports Amphibians, Alan Gibbs, told The Associated Press in a recent interview.

History is littered with attempts to make fast, long-lasting amphibious cars, from the campy German Amphicar of the early 1960s to current companies that rework sports cars by hand for $200,000 or more. But Gibbs, a former diplomat and entrepreneur from New Zealand, says the Quadski is the first land vehicle for sale that can go more than 10 mph in water. A lightweight, fiberglass hull and front wheels that rise mechanically when the vehicle hits the water are among the tricks the Quadski uses.

Gibbs, who has made everything from bras to television sets over a long career in New Zealand and the U.K., launched Gibbs Sports Amphibians 16 years ago after building his own amphibious car and wondering if he could make it on a larger scale. Since then, the company has spent $200 million, built nine prototypes and amassed more than 300 patents.

“It seems so simple, but it’s really difficult,” Gibbs said.

The Quadski isn’t the Gibbs’ first vehicle. That honor belongs to the three-seat Aquada, which debuted in 2003 and goes 100 mph on land and 30 mph in the water. Virgin Group CEO Richard Branson used an Aquada in 2004 when he set an amphibious vehicle speed record crossing the English Channel.

But the Aquada never went on sale. First its engine supplier, Rover, went out of business. Then U.S. safety regulators wouldn’t approve it for street use because of several safety issues. The government insisted on air bags, for example, even though Gibbs argued that they might deploy every time the Aquada hit a large wave.

Gibbs Sports Amphibians hopes to turn things around with the Quadski, which has fewer safety requirements because it’s an ATV. The company’s target customers are outdoor sportsmen as well as first responders. The Quadski will come in five colors and will be available at power sports dealers, concentrated in Florida, Texas, the New York to Boston corridor and the Great Lakes region.

Ryan Brown, a salesman at Carter Powersports in Las Vegas, has never heard of another vehicle like the Quadski and thinks it’s a great concept. But he’s not sure customers will pay $40,000 for one when a standard ATV costs between $4,400 and $10,000.

“These are toys people don’t have a lot of extra money for right now,” he said. “People are having a hard enough time getting financed on a $5,000 motorcycle.”

The Quadski will be made at the company’s Auburn Hills, Mich., factory, a former Daewoo Group parts plant. Gibbs Chairman and CEO Neil Jenkins said the company now has 100 employees at the plant. It plans to produce 20 Quadskis per day with 150 employees when the plant is in full operation. The company expects to sell around 1,000 Quadskis in the first year,

but Gibbs says he won’t be disappointed if the company doesn’t meet its sales targets.

“We’ll respond to how the market develops,” he said. “We wouldn’t be doing it without being very confident people will love them.”

Gibbs said the company may return to the Aquada someday and try to make it street legal for U.S. buyers. In the meantime it’s planning eight personal sports vehicles based on the Quadski, including some with more seating and SUV-like proportions.

The company is also preparing to introduce the Phibian, a 30-foot long, 6.5-ton model, and the Humdinga, a 22-foot, 3.5-ton model, which are both intended for the military and first responders, Gibbs said. The company is looking for partners to produce those vehicles.


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