New generation at the helm: Irish Boat Shop makes leadership transition – Petoskey News

HARBOR SPRINGS — A new generation will be setting the course at Irish Boat Shop, a marina and boatyard with a history going back more than 55 years.

The company recently announced that its board of directors elected Susan Irish Stewart to serve as chairman of the board, a position in which she succeeds her father and Irish Boat Shop’s founder, David Irish. Stewart, who previously had served as corporate secretary since 2007, began her new role Jan. 7.

“Sue brings a lifetime of experience in all kinds of boating along with strong business insight to the position,” Irish said. “She has been sailing on the Great Lakes since she was a child growing up in Harbor Springs.”

Irish Boat Shop president Michael Esposito, who heads up the company’s day-to-day operations, said Stewart’s new role will involve big-picture leadership considerations such as company planning and strategy.

“This is a very natural and planned progression of leadership,” he added.

Stewart worked for Irish Boat Shop for eight summers, starting at age 12. She graduated from Harbor Springs High School in 1979 and then attended Michigan State University, where she earned bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees in social science, parks and recreation. After college, she was employed as a research social scientist by the U.S. Forest Service until retiring from the government post to return to Harbor Springs in 2012. She currently resides there with husband Gary F. Stewart.

“I grew up in the business and have watched it from the outside for a number of years,” Stewart said. “I’m really excited about getting back on the inside.”

Looking forward, Stewart sees several key objectives for Irish Boat Shop to continue focusing on: helping people have fun with their boats, providing employment opportunities for valued team members and seeing that the company stays true to customer desires amid the constant evolution in the boating industry.

Stewart brings a variety of boating experiences to the position. She has crewed with her father on offshore sailboat races through the years, including Port Huron to Mackinac, Chicago to Mackinac, Verve Cup, Nood Regatta and recently has begun racing the J/70 she co-owns with her sister. While living in Chicago, she was a regular crew member on an Etchels and raced local and Mackinaw races on an assortment of racer-cruisers. She grew up sailing on NM sloops, an iconic and historically significant sailboat in Harbor Springs and a service specialty of Irish Boat Shop.

Although Irish has exited the chairman’s role, Esposito noted that Irish still has an office at the boat shop, and the company president expects the founder will continue to offer some input for the operation.

Following its 1961 founding by Irish and a small group of investors, Irish Boat Shop grew quickly and added a Charlevoix marina in 1971. Today, the two Irish Boat Shops serve more than 2,000 customers with marina slips for 340 boats and capacity for 900 boats in winter storage. The company employs a team of 65 people working together to serve customers. Irish Boat Shop offers new and used boat sales, as well as services that include structural, mechanical, electronic and cosmetic repairs along with maintenance for boats of all materials and propulsion. To learn more, see www.irishboatshop.com.


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