Dreaming of summer: A look inside how businesses prepare at New York City boat show

The scene at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center in Manhattan this past weekend was all-nautical as the Progressive Insurance New York Boat Show was in full swing. First held in 1905, it is the nation’s longest-running boat show, bringing together hundreds of businesses that represent dozens of manufacturers. 

For East End marine businesses, the event is a time for staff to gear up and bring their A-game for five days of nothing but boat talk.

Dealers come from all over the country but mainly from New York, New Jersey and Connecticut. More than half of the marine businesses that come from New York are based on Long Island, and out of those, over a quarter of them are from the East End.

Some of these businesses include Strong’s Marine, Port of Egypt Marine, Hampton Watercraft and Marine, Spellmans Marine and Albertson Marine.

“I love coming to this show, seeing what’s out there, our competition, seeing our customers that own boats and hearing stories about what they’ve been doing out on the water with their families and then helping others get into new boats,” said Rachel Pena, a sales consultant from Strong’s Marine, last Wednesday, the first day of the show.

The large showroom was divided into sections by boat brands like Grady-White, MasterCraft and Regal.

Ms. Pena was in the Cobalt boats section, one of the manufacturers Strong’s represents. One of the newer models she was showing off was the Cobalt R7 Surf Boat, designed for wakesurfing and other watersports.

Ms. Pena said the show is a great opportunity to see a lot of different products all at one venue.

Salesmen from Port of Egypt Marine aboard the Grady-White Freedom 375 model Wednesday morning at the New York Boat Show at the Jacob K. Javits Center in Manhattan. Credit: Krysten Massa

A few feet away at the Regal boats station, Strong’s Marine salesman David Russell was showing off a more luxurious boat. He was taking guests on a tour of a Regal 42 Grande Coupe, which evoked oohs and aahs from people who walked by it.

The 42-foot boat offers plenty of seating for guests, an aft cabin with a king-sized bed, a forward stateroom with a queen-sized bed and a kitchen area with a refrigerator, freezer, microwave and stove.

“This would be ideal for anybody who wants to go for a nice cruise out to Block Island or Connecticut,” he said.

The boat show is the one-stop shop for anything a boat lover could ever want, from engines to jet skis, luxury boats to more sporty boats.

Bill Witzke from Albertson Marine in Southold does not bring boats with him to the show, but can be found by the Mercury Marine boat engines. He said he’s been participating in the show for close to 30 years.

“It’s nice; we meet a lot of our customers here,” he said, adding that it’s cool to represent the North Fork at the show. “It’s always nice to meet people who I didn’t even know lived in Southold.”

Some of the Grady-White models on display at the show. Credit: Krysten Massa

Mike Kelley, sales manager at Port of Egypt Marine, said the same thing about being a business from the East End of Long Island.

“It’s always neat to represent our home area,” he said. Mr. Kelley and the rest of the Port of Egypt team could be found at the Grady-White section of the showroom. He said Port of Egypt is the longest-standing Grady-White dealer in the world.

One of the most impressive models he was showing was the Grady-White Freedom 375, a 37-footer with the largest hull the manufacturer makes. The boat features a large seating area in the bow, a sleeping/lounging area, and a refrigerator and electric grill.

He said that, while the goal is always to sell boats, many people come to the show just to look around, see what’s new and then later on follow up with a dealer to purchase a boat. He said during the long weekend, his main focus is to make sure he can answer any questions a potential buyer may have and to give smart buying tips. He said a sale will typically be made in the days or weeks following.

“It’s a good economy, people are into boating and it’s usually the kickoff to the season,” he said. “The manufacturers have great incentives. It’s a perfect time to buy a boat.”

Photo caption: Rachel Pena, a sales consultant at Strong’s Marine, on the Cobalt R7 Surf Boat Wednesday afternoon at the New York Boat Show. (Credit: Krysten Massa)

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