Nautical Ventures Group seeks to provide one-stop marine shop

Nautical Ventures Group wants to sell you just about anything that floats.

“From kayaks to cruise ships,” said co-owner Roger Moore, the group’s CEO. “We get a lot of raised eyebrows on that. How in the world could you possibly do well in that many different things?”

After a series of recent acquisitions and expansions, the Dania Beach-based company is equipped to supply those small and big items — as well as fuel, vessel renovations, yacht tenders, stand-up paddleboard lessons and, soon, hovercraft. The company will be at the Yacht and Brokerage Show in Miami Beach Monday with various parts of its business represented.

What started out as a yacht brokerage called Quality Power and Sail, or QPS, now includes a brand new retail superstore, marina and shipyard, fuel distributor, rental outfit and education source.

And the business is seeing its revenues grow as well. The company brought in $11 million in revenue in 2013, a nearly 47 percent increase over 2012. Moore said sales are anticipated to reach $25 million this year.

While Nautical Ventures Group is profitable, the company is also investing heavily in its growth. Within the last couple of years, the company has put about $7 million toward the purchase of River Bend Marine Center in Fort Lauderdale; the construction of a brand new retail center and storage area north of Stirling Road in Dania Beach; and buying a 50 percent stake in LukFuel, a distributor that operated at the marina.

“It was our intention to have other contributing factors in sales — some of them, like the fuel business, came unexpectedly,” Moore said. “But when opportunity presents itself and it fits within the parameters of the marine model that we’re building, then it just made sense.”

When Moore sold his manufacturing business more than two decades ago and took to the water on a 63-foot boat with his wife Samantha and dog, he had no idea the short-term “break” would turn into journey of 13 years. And Moore, whose background includes work as an airline pilot and real estate broker, certainly didn’t anticipate that his follow-up career would center around the marine industry.

After arriving in Fort Lauderdale 11 years ago, he decided to sell his boat, which led him to broker Jeff Garcia. (Moore still lives on the water, in an 84-foot expedition-style boat on the New River with his wife and dogs Barnacle and Sailor.)

Moore and Garcia started working together at a Fort Lauderdale brokerage that Garcia, who had previously owned a shipyard in France, started.

The company, Quality Power and Sail (known now as QPS), saw sales double annually. As the U.S. economy started to falter in late 2007 and 2008, Garcia and Moore focused on buying distressed boats from wholesalers and banks, fixing them up and exporting them to European buyers in the Caribbean. (Now that the euro is weak and the North American economy is improving, Moore said, the company is looking to buy from desperate sellers in Europe to sell here.)

About four and a half years ago, the brokerage moved to a location at Griffin Road and Interstate 95 in Dania Beach. Eventually, QPS agreed to acquire the neighboring Nautical Ventures, a marine store.

“We felt it was synergistic to offer people who are buying boats water items, kayaks,” Moore said. “It helped build both our businesses.”

The company was happy with the success of its neighboring locations until about two years ago, when word came that the Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport expansion project was going to gobble up the property. Because Nautical Ventures was just the tenant, the company could only receive help with moving expenses from the county, but not compensation for having to leave.

Moore described the reaction as “panic city.” One solution came as they found out about a bank getting rid of River Bend Marine Center, an 8.5-acre shipyard and marina; Nautical Ventures negotiated a deal to buy, and moved the QPS staff there in January 2013. With the experts already employed at River Bend and the company’s own staff, they were finally able to provide yacht refits in their own space without having to use other people’s facilities.

For the store, the company eventually found waterfront property on Bryan Road, just north of Stirling Road east of I-95. After being denied loans by several large banks who “just had a lot of trouble with all the moving pieces,” Moore said, local Paradise Bank funded the $5 million loan under the Small Business Administration program.

A whirlwind eight months after filing plans for the site, Nautical Ventures had 30,000 square feet in two new buildings on 3.5 acres. The company moved into the new home in October.

“Where the fun part was — and it wasn’t necessarily fun for Roger during that process — was that the county, the city, Roger, FPL, anybody that weighs in on a project like that really communicated well, really understood what we were all trying to get done,” said Dania Beach Mayor Walter Duke. “Roger was a fantastic shareholder.”

Duke said it was important for the city, which has a large marine industry presence, to keep the company in Dania Beach.

“We managed to all do our part to help keep Nautical Ventures at their old facility as long as possible and in the most economical way possible while also accommodating the most seamless construction interval in the shortest amount of time,” he said. “We’re just so pleased that he’s doing so well and has been able to stay here.”

In an effort to reach anyone who enjoys being on the water — not just those who can afford a yacht — Nautical Ventures recently started a rental and lessons department. The company rents stand-up paddleboards and kayaks, sponsors extreme kayak fishing tournaments and plans to start offering introductory boating courses.

“The marketing plan is to make this a destination where you can come and enjoy the water,” Moore said. And if someone who takes a boating course with the company decides they want to buy their first vessel?

“We offer entry-level boats under $20,000,” Moore said.

“I think it will be a profit center, but not worth the amount of time, effort and energy just to make that profit,” he said. “It’s to promote getting on the water for just about anyone.”

The “cruise ship” part of the business came about a couple years ago, when former Windstar Cruises president Ken Caine — who knew Moore through a friend — suggested QPS add a cruise ship division to the brokerage. He had sold his business that manufactured building products overseas and wanted a new challenge, albeit one with a bit of familiarity.

Earlier this year, Caine closed the first deal: the $14 million sale of the former Saga Ruby to Millennium View Limited, an affiliate of a private equity fund based in Singapore. The 561-passenger ship will become a floating hotel in Myanmar.

Caine, the sales director for commercial vessels at QPS, said his strategy is to look for potential buyers outside the cruise industry.

“I won’t say that finding the right ship is easy, but it’s harder to find the customer,” said Caine, who lives on a 50-foot boat in Aventura.

Eventually, he said, the plan is to sell other unusual vessels such as aircraft carriers and submarines, but “the one we like the best at the moment really are cruise ships.”

Despite branching off into so many directions, Moore said the company really enjoys some of the work it’s always done: selling and refitting yachts. He said refits make up about 30 percent of revenue for QPS and River Bend Marine Center.

“We make a commission selling it, we make a commission refitting it, and we make the buyer happy,” he said.

Steve Zillig, of Buffalo, is one of those happy customers.

In the market for a new boat, he came to South Florida more than a year ago and called some brokers whose numbers he found at a marine store. One was retired, but had Moore call Zillig back.

The two looked at boats until Zillig, 57, knew exactly what he wanted. And then Moore set out to find a deal on a boat that could be fixed up, eventually finding the perfect candidate in Cancun.

“He helped me find the boat of my dreams that my wife and I really like — it really fits us,” said Zillig, who owns a company that makes parts for cars and trucks. “Roger really took the time to get to know me and understand what I was looking for.”

Zillig was so pleased he spread the word to friends, one of whom also bought a boat from the company. And he said the one-stop shopping aspect was a big appeal.

“I bought kayaks from them, a paddleboard, stuff for my Hobie Cat from them,” he said. “So it’s awesome.”

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