Kokomo Marine Holds 50 Years of History on the Water
Back in 1978, Raymond Lewis had a vision for the future of his family. A fisherman and boat lover, he wanted to build a business that not only could be passed down but one that was based on offering the community something enjoyable. Today, Kokomo Marine, located at 2000 North Phillips Street, continues to fulfill that dream.
“My dad started a company in 1959 that sold fresh produce,” says Manager Dale Lewis. “Later, he had two automobile body shops. Eventually, he decided that automotive wasn’t going to be the future of the family and he started looking at other avenues. He wanted something that was tied to fun. Since our family went boating every week, he went to a marine-based business.
“It began in one building that was as big as a four-car garage. Today it has 10 buildings on 25 acres,” he adds. “My dad passed away in 2000, but my mother Violet still owns it. I manage the business and my son Nathan works as the shop manager and master technician. His 15-year-old son is beginning to work in the business, so now we have the fourth generation of our family working there.”
Kokomo Marine accommodates its customers with sales, service, storage plus anything else necessary to meet all boating needs. New and used boats as well as trailers are sold, and trade-ins are taken. Lowe and Charger brands are among their biggest sellers. Master techs are able to service boats and engines. It offers more than 7,000 accessory and equipment products in its warehouse. During the winter months, more than 100 boats are stored inside its buildings.
“What’s popular in boating runs in segments,” Lewis says. “Just like bell bottoms were once popular to wear, what people want in boats runs through fads. From the 80s to about 1995, everyone had to have a bass boat. They used to be 12% of the market and now they are down to 5%. Once they were priced from $20,000 but now, they go for about $55,000.
“What kind of boats sell also fluctuates according to the economy. People have always wanted runabouts and average fishing boats, but the demand is increasing and now the boats are more expensive. Twenty years ago, a high-end fish finder was $600. Today, if you want to fish in a tournament the equipment needed costs between $6,000 and $10,000. Over the last 10 years, the technology has become unbelievable in all recreational boats.”
As a Gold Star Mercury Marine dealership, Kokomo Marine technicians must maintain their training. Today’s consumer wants up-to-date equipment and in order to stay in business, technicians must be able to diagnose and work on the one or more onboard computers that direct a modern boat’s technology. Each year, service personnel spend one week in the classroom and two weeks working in Mercury Marine’s factory. In addition, over the course of the year, service staff participate in 30 hours of online training.
Customers travel from Indianapolis, Lafayette and even Illinois to visit Kokomo Marine. Many are second-generation boaters who took over their father’s boat. Others come from boating families and want to get a boat of their own as they become adults. Word of mouth also drives people to the business.
“We really enjoy the work we do,” Lewis says. “Our work is done so customers can have a lot of recreational enjoyment. Dad had the foresight and the plan and all our family did was execute it.”
Kokomo Marine is located at 2000 North Phillips Street in Kokomo. Visit them online at KokomoMarine.net or call at 765-457-2202 for more information.