Florida company buys two Martha's Vineyard marinas

Edgartown Marine and Vineyard Island Marina sold to Prime Marina Group of Miami Tuesday.

Boats tied up at Edgartown Marine. – Rich Saltzburg

Updated 5:30 pm, Wednesday

George and Sheryl Rogers of Tisbury, owners of Edgartown Marine and Vineyard Island Marina, confirmed Tuesday the sale of both marinas to Prime Marina Group of Miami for an undisclosed sum.

Mr. Rogers said he does not know a great deal about the Prime Marina other than they have been “ambitiously pursuing the purchase of boatyards along the New England coastline.” The couple said Prime Marina initiated the sale.

“They stumbled upon us about a year ago, and made a lot of inquiries for several months,” Mr. Rogers told The Times in a telephone conversation late Tuesday afternoon. “And we finally found that moment where we said, Why don’t we give these guys a shot? It seems like they are generally interested; they have the experience; and they seem to have the capital to buy these places and ratchet them up to the next generation of capital improvements and that kind of stuff, and that lured us into the thought process of — why not? Why not consider selling these things?”

As to what the summer boating season will bring, that is for the new owners to decide. Mr. Rogers anticipates operations will remain unchanged through the summer. “They’re moving into an environment that is moving real fast right now, with the spring season,” he said. “What they may do come September, October, November, is anybody’s guess. We really didn’t get into investment strategies. I’m sure they’re going to make improvements to the buildings.”

“They’ve run boatyards before,” Ms. Rogers said. “I think they understand how to continue what we’ve been working really hard to do, which is make sure our customers are ready for Memorial Day weekend and ready for Fourth of July. We have people [customers] with pretty high expectations, and we try to make sure that everything is done for their boats well in advance of them going into the water.”

Prime Marina Group was not saying much. Reached by telephone late Tuesday and Wednesday, Group general manager Brian Ferrara said he was not prepared to speak about the sale, but that a press release would be forthcoming; it had not arrived as of press time.

A new website was up and running that listed a marina in Coconut Grove and Miami, Fla., and the company’s two newest locations on Martha’s Vineyard. The website said Prime Marina Group “is an owner and operator of mixed-use, destination marina properties in key geographic locations along the Eastern Seaboard … focused on unlocking value through a deep and thorough understanding of how each of our properties and their individual operating platforms interact with one another, with the communities in which they belong, as well as with our most important asset, our customers.”

Stefan Johansson and Jose Hevia, the company principals, are successful South Florida developers with varied business and community interests, according to the website.

Islanders react

Steve Ewing of Edgartown is a fixture around the waterfront, a dock builder for 46 years and owner of Aquamarine dock builders. He said the Edgartown waterfront and the marina have changed greatly over the years. The marine industry, including the boatyard, he said, is a “shadow of its former self.” Mr. Ewing said boaters are fortunate the town owns the Water Street property it leases to the boatyard so that the travel lift is always available for hauling boats, particularly in the face of a storm.

Mr. Ewing said the sale had been rumored for months. He said he knows nothing about the new owners. “Let’s just hope they’re receptive to the needs of the people of Edgartown,” he said. “It’s an important part of our working waterfront — what’s left of it.”

Tisbury Interim Harbormaster John Crocker recently broke the ice with Prime Marina Group. “I called them the other day and introduced myself,” he said. “My assumption is that it will be business as usual.”

“We’re looking forward to working with the new company and developing a good relationship,” said Edgartown Harbormaster departmental assistant Sally O’Neil.

Will miss employees

The Rogerses purchased Edgartown Marine and Vineyard Island Marina in 2011 and 2013 respectively. The Vineyard Haven couple will stay on as consultants to guide the transition.

Ms. Rogers said she and her husband made sure the deal was structured so that all the employees would be retained by the new owner. “We thought that was really important,” she said.

Asked what they would miss about running the two boatyards, Mr. Rogers said, “We’ll miss our customers, and we’ll miss our employees. You grow fond of each other.”

Mr. Rogers said the business was a large part of their lives. “Over the past five, six years, especially at Edgartown, we spent 60 percent of our waking day in that environment with our employees, so they’ve kind of become family to us. We get to learn about their day-to-day lives, their family lives, so we share a lot together, and not to have that anymore — we’re going to miss that.”

Mr. Rogers grew up in Vineyard Haven, and has multigenerational Island roots. Following successful corporate careers — he in finance and his wife in marketing — the couple followed a dream and returned to the Island.

Once he and his wife made the decision to leave the corporate world and return to the Vineyard, they went looking for a business that would be a perfect fit for their interests, skills, and entrepreneurial ambitions. Edgartown Marine turned out to be it. Vineyard Haven Marina soon followed.

As to the future, George and Sheryl Rogers said they plan to do some boating of their own. “I actually put my own personal boat in the water a week ago,” Mr. Rogers said; “first time in the past five years I got it in the water before the Fourth of July.”