Two Former Center Grove Students Run Successful Marina
For several years, friends and former Center Grove High School classmates J. Hurless and Monty Anderson worked together at Ray Skillman Auto Center, today they own Reeder-Trausch Marine. One day Hurless suggested to his buddy that they buy a boat dealership. Anderson, who had been a boater his entire life, thought it was a great idea because he felt that the industry standard in the field was poor. He knew of marinas in the area where potential customers walked in the door and were barely acknowledged. He and Hurless found with a good attitude and excellent customer service, succeeding would not be an issue.
“We knew if we provided amazing customer service, we could really change the industry,” Anderson says.
In the spring of 2018, Reeder-Trausch Marine, located on Raccoon Lake in Rockville, went up for sale.
“We came out and looked at it – it was a dump,” says Hurless, adding that the seller generated $275,000 in annual sales but was asking for $1 million. “We had to envision what we could do, especially given that this small business had a big price tag.”
Though it was a giant leap, the pair saw potential. On March 23, 2018, they closed on the property. The following morning as they drove over a barren Raccoon Lake, which is drained every year, the friends looked at each other and asked, “What did we just do?”
The moment of panic quickly faded, however, and the guys dove into their respective roles – Hurless doing the selling and Anderson servicing the boats. Through the past two years they have hired 14 full and part-time employees, and now the business generates $8 – $10 million in annual sales.
The business sells new and used watercraft, as small as 16 feet and as large as 45 feet. This year they’ve sold more than 120 pontoons, which they say are very popular at the moment.
“People like them because they’re spacious,” Hurless says. “You can put 12 people on one and still have room to move around. It’s definitely a family man’s boat.”
In the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, Hurless and Anderson have enjoyed a silver lining in sales for Reeder-Trausch Marine.
“Sales in the era of COVID-19 have been ridiculous,” says Hurless, noting that so far this year they have sold approximately 270 new and used boats, compared to 124 last year. “We have several people walking in the door who say, ‘We’ve never owned a boat in our lives. Can we buy one right now and how quickly can we be on the water?’ If we had 100 more boats to sell right now, we’d sell every one of them.”
With so many activities and social gatherings considered risky or off-limits during the pandemic, many people have sought out boating as a way to relax and have fun.
Boating provides a way to cool off, chill out, and perhaps acquire a new skill such as waterskiing, wakeboarding or fishing. With so many lakes around the south side of Indy, folks have lots of options.
Hurless and Anderson separate themselves from many other dealers around town by offering an on-the-water tutorial with each purchase. This includes a demonstration on how to back a boat down a ramp, and how to put one on a trailer. At the time of delivery, the business’s parts and accessories specialist Gavin Griffith educates customers on accessories, as well as safety and legal issues. In addition, the staff explains end-of-season costs, including storage and winterization of watercraft. According to Hurless, an educated customer means a long-time boater.
The friends love investing in the community and their employees by offering production bonuses, paid training and holiday parties. They hold two open houses per year for which they bring in a chef and a live band, and give away prizes. For the past two years they have adopted a family in Rockville at Christmas time. In addition, they have recently partnered with Parke County Schools to participate in a program for which students attend school for half a day, and spend the other half learning a trade at the marina.
Even though Hurless and Anderson work hard, they make sure to carve out time for their families.
“My fiancée Shelby and I go boating every weekend,” Hurless says. “In fact, people know not to invite me to weddings, birthday parties or any other events on a Sunday, because I’ll be out on Lake Monroe.”
Anderson spends his free time either zipping around Raccoon Lake, flying airplanes (he’s got his aviator license) or going to long-range, high-powered rifle competitions with his wife Alena.
“Without a couple of pretty strong, supporting women who put up with us, we wouldn’t be enjoying such success,” Hurless says.
Reeder-Trausch Marine is located at 6950 East US Highway 36 in Rockville. For more information, call 765-344-1771 and visit reedertrauschmarines.com.