Friday, May 18, 2012
Thinking outside the docks
Turner's Building expands into the marina business with the purchase of 18 water slips.
For some businesses during the economic slowdown, the name of the game has been diversity. If demand for the service a business offers wanes, expanding to provide other services is a tactic some business owners have been using to survive the recession.
Case in point: Turner's Building. The 36-year-old dock-building business recently acquired part of a marina and is serving as landlord, and thereby serviceman, to boat-slip tenants.
"In a lot of businesses, you see companies going into other things because they have like interests," said Jason Turner, president of Turner's Building. "That's sort of what this project was for us; we work on lifts every day all year long."
The project is Waterlocked Boat Rental Slips, a marina of 18 slips on Waterlocked Road in Penhook. Turner said the company purchased the property in late February from Franklin Community Bank. It was a foreclosure that formerly had been part of Smith Mountain Dock & Lodge, said Turner.
"We probably spent three weeks evaluating other slip rentals, looking at other aspects of this property and crunching numbers," he said. "As we looked at the numbers, I really, in my mind, thought there was some opportunity there."
Turner said the company will bring in revenue from the slip rentals - 12 of the 18 have been secured with yearlong or month-to-month leases - as well as a two-bedroom rental trailer Turner's installed on the property.
"It's definitely not something that we're going to be making money on up front," said Turner. "We were looking at this from a long-term investment."
Waterlocked features 14 20-foot slips and four 24-foot slips. Turner said most required repairs to the lifts, which were outdated and, in some cases, in disrepair.
"We started work on the property the week we bought it," he said. "We totally ripped out the electrical and did a complete upgrade."
The marina's roof needed a complete makeover, as it had rusted patches. And much of the wood that made up the bathhouse on the property was rotten, said Turner. He said all of the work was done either by his crew or by subcontractors, including a painter and electrician, with whom he regularly works.
This isn't the first time Turner's Building has expanded its portfolio. After the Shoreline Management Plan went into effect several years ago, the company began offering deck work to help offset changes to the business, said Turner.
When the housing market crashed a few years ago, the deck services helped ease the pain when many homeowners decided to put off dock construction until things turn around.
Turner said the company may continue to grow its services in the future to allow for additional avenues of revenue.
"I would like to see us getting into offering some other services or possibly other properties," he said. "A lot of that will be in terms of how well the economy goes on the dock side of things and how well this other property goes."
As for the dock-building business, things are looking up, said Turner.
"We had a pretty good first quarter," he said. "We've got, right now, a pretty decent backlog and things appear to be on a little bit of an uptick."
Turner said he thinks at least 50 percent of this year's projects will be new construction - either brand-new projects or starting from scratch after a complete tear-down. That quantity will be closer to what the business looked like seven years ago when new construction was 75 percent of the business, he said.
"Last year, we did one new construction job," said Turner. "It was all renovation work."
Currently, Turner's Building has three new jobs under contract. But while Turner is optimistic, he's also cautious. Yes, the volume of calls coming in is higher than last year, but that could change quickly.
"The other dock builders and I, everybody's holding their breath," said Turner. "Two years ago at the end of the summer, it was like the phones just stopped ringing."
For more information, call Turner's Building, 576-2678.