Member Spotlight: Reed's Marine
Thursday, June 16, 2016
Posted by: Jay Corn
It all started with what Tom Johnson calls a “mid-life crisis” back in 1971 when he and a business partner decided to buy a marina in southeast Wisconsin.
Nearly 50 years later, business at Reed’s Marine on the shores of Delavan Lake, as well as their growing service center a few miles away, is booming. Call it high tide — the best time for a captain to make an exit.
After dedicating his entire life exclusively to boating, Tom has decided to officially retire. His successor, the grandson of Tom's original business partner, has been known for several years and is a familiar face around Reed’s Marine.
“I’m fortunate to have a partner whose family has grown up around the business and continues to want to be in it,” Tom said as his successor, Jason Shallcross, sat nearby smiling. “My kids did not.”
Saying he was “born into the boat business,” most of Jason’s time at Reed’s Marine has been spent in the service department — located a short drive from the water on property adjacent to the house in which he grew up and where his parents still live.
“I feel having a background in service gives me insight into how everything on that side of the business works,” Jason said. “There won’t be many times where I don’t know how everything is working out there.”
In recent years Jason has closely shadowed Tom, learning first-hand what it takes to be the GM of a premier dealership. Reed’s Marine is one of the few dealerships in America that has been included on Boating Industry’s list of Top 100 retailers each year since 2005, and Tom says he has no doubt the standard of excellence will continue under Jason’s leadership.
“Rarely does a dealership get big enough that everyone is doing a specialized job all the time — the owner is called upon to do many different jobs in so many different areas,” Tom said. “We’ve learned to take the time to look at your dealership overall rather than just taking care of the fires of today. I think Jason understands that, and I’m completely comfortable leaving the dealership in his hands.”
Jason’s first season as a solo captain appears to be shaping up to be one of the best years in recent memory. Boat sales are steady, and new service orders keep the technician team continually busy. Similarly, phone calls and foot traffic seeking accessories, dock lifts and slip availability.
“I think this season will be very strong, and I’m optimistic about the summer,” Jason said. “I’m excited. There’s nothing else I’d rather be doing.”
Jason went on to say he would continue Tom’s tradition of traveling to Orlando each winter for the annual Marine Dealer Conference & Expo, adding he’d already registered his team for the 2016 conference and stressed he sees the conference as one of the year's best educational opportunities.
“We are big supporters of MDCE, and every year we learn new and relevant ideas to bring home,” Jason said. “For us, it’s a ‘can’t miss’ event.”
As for Tom, he has no regrets expressed a sense of accomplished satisfaction with leaving the retail boating business on his terms.
“I’ve seen a lot of changes over the years and a lot of changes in the boating business,” Tom said. “We’ve certainly made a very good living, and I feel very lucky. It’s extremely difficult to get out of the boat business, and it’s rare to be able to leave when you want — and in the way you want. I feel very fortunate.”