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Member Spotlight: Karen Davidson
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How did you get started in the boating industry? 

Well, it goes way back to the late 60s, when my dad was stationed overseas and had a custom sailboat built in the Netherlands. We ended up keeping the boat at a marina in Holland and used to go back and forth from Belgium to spend the weekends on it. I don’t have great memories of that time because what teenage girl wants to spend her weekends with her parents polishing chrome, cleaning sails and oiling teak? For my dad, though, it was the impetus for planning his retirement into his second career. I went away to college and by the summer of my sophomore year, my parents left the only life they knew anything about in order to pursue my father’s dream of owning a marina, which he knew nothing about! They bought Green Cove Marina in the spring of 1973, and so the Davidson Family entered the Boating Industry.

What is your current role with Green Cove Marina and how did you get there? 

I actually did not get involved in the marina until 1985 – 12 years after my parents and brother had been operating the place.  After I left college, I opened a homemade ice cream store in Ocean Township, N.J. and then subsequently opened a second location in a neighboring town. I sold them in the early 80s when I got married and prepared myself for a very early retirement. After I had my first child and the wonder and awe of being home all day with a little one started to become less challenging, my parents cajoled me into working at the marina "just part time to help out a little." I wasn’t too keen on the idea (boating??!?), but my mother was going to watch the baby and it would get me out of the house a little, so I figured, "OK, I’ll just work a day or two here and there." Fast forward 30 years: I’m the general manager carrying on the legacy that my mother, father and brother devoted themselves so tirelessly to build. 

What are some beliefs or talents that Green Cove embodies that you believe contributed to your success?

Simply put, my father always did the right thing. It was important to him that his marina had a reputation for great service, a family atmosphere, and fair prices. We always have put resources back into the marina: Keeping up with bulkheading projects and the upkeep of and additions to our amenities. We have an award-winning service department with Mercruiser, Mercury and Yamaha Certified technicians. We were honored by SouthWind Deck Boats as one of their Top 7 Dealers in 2014, and we are proud to be a New Jersey Clean Marina, a Five-Star Certified Dealer, a member of the Marine Trades Association of New Jersey, as well as the MRAA and ABYC. We are proud to maintain an A+ rating with the Better Business Bureau; all of this so that our customers know they can count on us as a marina with solid moral principles, good business ethics and a sense of responsibility for our environment and waterways. 

I know that you won a free pass to MDCE last year for being part of the NJMTA. Why do you think it's important for dealers to be involved in their local MTAs?

Our MTA offers all manner of support, guidance and information to the hundreds of dealers in New Jersey. It’s always surprising to me that there are some dealers that don’t join because it truly is a brotherhood of like-minded business people coming together to promote boating – an industry that has certainly seen some challenges in the past few years. MTA/NJ has resources for every dealer large and small; from the 24-hour days they worked post-Sandy simply doing welfare checks, to the tireless work our director did ensuring marinas would not be excluded from the Economic Development Agency grants. They keep us informed of changes in legislation that affect our industry (our livelihood!) and can offer information and/or referrals on any subject that might come up in a marine dealership of any sort. The MTA/NJ offers friendship and social events with other business people that are facing the same trials that I do; that can maybe offer me a solution to a problem by virtue of their own experience. Everyone is willing to help each other and there is boundless knowledge and capability to draw on. To not support your state’s MTA is short-sighted and, frankly, rather self-defeating.

I see that you are a Certified Dealer. What are some reasons that you would share with dealerships that aren't Certified regarding why they should be?

The Certification process (renewal) actually is something I look forward to; it’s a team of industry professionals offering valuable insights into how we can do a better job, make our customers happy and ensure our overall success. The individual advisors spend a good amount of time learning about your dealership and then they offer thoughtful and easily implemented advice. They help ensure you have processes in place that will identify areas that need attention in your business before they become areas of weakness. I really do believe that Certification is a tool for your own growth and stability that no dealership should pass up.

What prompted you to become an MRAA Member? Any special benefits? Or just the status that comes with being an MRAA Member?

Honestly, I feel it is important to be members of any worthwhile marine industry organization because the more I am supported, the stronger is my presence. We do feel a certain status; that we are somehow set apart from other dealers, and of course, we do get discounts on boat shows, MDCE, other conferences and publications.

How do you overcome industry challenges?

We have felt the economic and post-storm challenges, as have most of our peers in the industry, and it does become imperative for our collective survival to look at income centers with a creative point of view. We started directing our marketing efforts towards families and the lasting memories that can be formed with time spent together boating and at Green Cove Marina. Boating isn’t as expensive as some might think, if you can get your customer to see the value in time spent with their families enjoying bright sunshine, lazy afternoons on the water, and the special camaraderie that a marina offers. We also turned to our MTA for resources available throughout New Jersey, and they help keep us informed of changes that affect us locally so we can, in turn, keep our customers educated and feeling a valued part of the industry. We try and promote boating wherever we can – we take advantage of the free promotional items offered by Discover Boating, Grow Boating and the Welcome to the Water campaign to help bring our industry back where we belong.

What are "Five Fast Facts" about yourself? 

1.      I'm addicted to Shahs of Sunset.

2.      I'm a master griller and can out-cook almost anyone on a big fat Weber!

3.     I get seasick when I go out on a boat

4.     My friends think I’m more trouble than I’m worth, but they still put up with me!

5.     Everything I do is for my two daughters, Alexa and Alaina