“Twenty-five years ago after hurricane Andrew, I told everyone that hurricane would be a once-in-a-lifetime event; now after Irma, I figure this means I’ve lived two lifetimes.” Ken Reda, Marine Max General Manager
On Monday, September 11th, the day after Irma flooded the the Fishing Village, and after his first glimpse of the result of more than 3 ft. of water in Marine Max, Ken was wondering what it would take to get back into business. The entire operation was affected. Inside the store, there was tackle floating in the aisles; outside, the boatyard launching office was flooded up to the second floor, and the storage yard dumpster had floated across the boatyard and onto the dock. Every space was affected. Bait, parts, sales and service and retail, and some $330,000 in inventory. With no electricity for the bait coolers, they were faced with the smelly reality of what do you do with pallets of defrosted bait and 60 cases of chum. They uncased it, removed the plastic and fed it to the fish! The following day they brought in generators to power lights and fans. On the Wednesday after Irma, they were able to launch the boats of the USCG Auxiliary and FWC. Ken said, “As we were cleaning the mold, we were trying to help those people, whose activities at Ocean Reef were very limited. When it came to boating, we wanted to say yes, even when everyone wanted to say no.” We were working on the premise: give the boaters what they want, need and expect, they will all understand. As long as the fishing is good.
Fast forward two months AHI, in the area they now call FISH TOWN, a temporary Marine Max, which opened Nov. 3rd, is located dockside, on 10 former parking spaces west of the Raw Bar. I happened upon it a few days ago, while on my “two month After Hurricane IRMA” photo tour. I couldn’t contain my excitement. This is a real fishing village. It is reminiscent of my hometown Ft. Lauderdale circa 1960… when all the bait and tackle stores were dockside. As a kid, we’d ride our bikes over the Las Olas Bridge, take a right on Seabreeze Blvd., past the fishing boats, and onto the docks in Bahia Mar. The live wells with shrimp and crab were always a source of fascination. Barb Perdue who grew up at Ocean Reef, shares a similar memory, as she recalls playing on top of the wooden bait boxes on the dock. (Her father Pete owned the marine store Perdue Dean).
After Irma, It was some clever thinking outside the box that got the boating community up and running. Ken Reda, General Manager and Robert Diaz, Operations Manager of Marine Max came up with a plan to use containers as a place to store the salvaged inventory, and eventually serve as an interim marine store. Not even sure it was possible, they defied all odds when they used their forklift to hoist the containers over a fence, and then stacked the containers two high, and then rearranged three different times, to minimize the impact of space. They installed temporary shelving for parts and retail, and filled them with inventory they were able to salvage.
The Marine Max “Tackle Shop” has been re-invented. The containers are well appointed with skin mounts on the exterior siding, and house a tackle shop, parts and service department and sales. It is not like shopping, where you stroll the aisles, but more like a concierge; ask and they will find what you need. There are tables with umbrellas for visitors to sit or share a fish tale or two.
Many members returning to the Reef, after seeing the Club for for the first time, tell me it looks pretty good. They say the Club “lowered our expectations”. I suppose because there are some pretty “high expectation” people running this place. It truly is amazing where we have come two months after hurricane Irma. The accompanying photos were taken Oct. 27 - Nov. 11, 2017. Carol Ellis
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