FORT WORTH - While boat sales are on life support, one North Texas businessman has based a booming business on boats, growing by 600 percent since last year.
The idea is to make sure the customers always give the boats back.
Montey Kitchen was living in Tennessee and running his staffing company when he had an epiphany he calls a "life is too short moment."
"Basically, one day I just said to myself, 'What if I did something everyone enjoyed?'" he recalled.
So, last year, Kitchen and his wife moved to the Dallas-Fort Worth area to start a boating business.
It might have seemed like losing proposition. An industry trade journal reports first quarter sales of fiberglass boats 14-feet and longer were down nearly 50 percent in 2009 with around 13,000 sold, and have kept falling for the next two years.
"There was no government bailouts for boat loans," Kitchen said wryly.
So, instead of selling boats, Kitchen started the Big D Boat Club. He also offers monthly club memberships to customers who want to use boats often, pitching the cost as cheaper than boat repairs and slip fees.
Kitchen also rents boats by the day. The Ringstad family recently rented a boat for an afternoon at Eagle Mountain Lake.
"I think it worked out really well, because we don't have to worry about backing up the boat and where to store it," said Stephanie Ringstad.
"This was so fun I think we're going to want to do this more," agreed Jason Ringstad, Stephanie's husband.
The business launched in February of 2010 at Lake Ray Hubbard and Lake Lewisville. This year it expanded to Eagle Mountain Lake at the request of a marina.
The fleet's grown from five to 35 boats. Kitchen sees nothing but blue skies and calm waters ahead.