New site for busy boat dealer

Marty Walker is busy selling boats, running high school fishing tourneys and coaching his daughter’s soccer team, but he wouldn’t have it any other way.

“This is my little sandbox,” Walker said of his Palmetto Boat Center, which he recently moved from Greenville to a spot along Interstate 85 in Piedmont. “If I want to try something, I don’t have to go through the board of directors or have 20 meetings. If it doesn’t work, I can put it back the way it was.”

The 1996 graduate of NC State left a safe logistics job with Lowes Home Improvement Centers several years ago for the boat business, turning a passion for fishing and talent for selling pontoons and bass boats into a career.

Walker, 43, joined Palmetto as a managing partner in 2005, weathered the drought and business slump of 2008-09 and eventually emerged as the owner of the business.

Boat sales and repair were good at his previous location on U.S. 123 in Greenville, but when the building that housed the old DirecTV distributorship off the north side of Exit 35 on I-85 came on the market this past spring, Walker pounced on it.

“There’s 35,000 cars going by here every day … I’m getting five people telling me, ‘You’re closer to me’ than the one person who says, ‘You’re further away,’” Walker said Tuesday.

Business is good at the new place . Walker said his busy staff delivered 14 boats one week in July, and he spends as much time in the shop on repair jobs and body work as he does on the floor selling – usually until “7 or 8 o’clock every night.”

His employees note that commitment.

“He’s a very understanding boss and there’s plenty of work,” said Preston Dobson, who has been with Walker for three years.

Walker also has spent the last few years promoting a bass fishing tournaments for local high school teams. In  fact, he is busy this week preparing for the second stop of the season – Saturday’s 220-boat competition at Green Pond Landing in Anderson, which he calls the “Bassmaster series for the high school kids.”

Despite the demands of selling and servicing boats and running high school tournaments, Walker makes plenty of time for wife, Gidget, and 8-year-old daughter, Victoria. He even coaches Victoria’s soccer team at Marathon Church in Powdersville.

“We’re 5-0 so far this season,” Walker said with a smile. “We’re trying to win that championship.”

But coming up this weekend, Walker will be at Green Pond Landing on Lake Hartwell near Anderson working with other kids.

“There’s a lot to be done, but I’ve got a great staff and the sponsoring schools (Travelers Rest and Woodmont high schools this weekend) do a lot of the leg work,” Walker said. “It’s kids and they get excited … we get a crowd with the families who all come out to see how they did, and we try to make it a big show for them.”

The Palmetto Boat Center High School Tournament Trail visits Lake Hartwell Saturday. Visit www.palmettoboatcenter.com for more information or go out to Green Pond Landing Saturday morning.

Follow Mike Eads on Twitter @MikeEads_AIM


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