Shoreline Warehouses Are Packed

December 12, 2003
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GRAND RAPIDS — With the gales of November past and the flurries of December at hand, few people here are thinking about boating — boaters included.

That’s primarily because their boats are in storage, likely in one of four warehouses on Muskegon Lake.

Two corporations located roughly a mile apart on Lakeshore Drive on the south shore of the lake — Torresen Marine Inc. and Great Lakes Marina — provide storage for shoreline boaters, many boat owners from the Grand Rapids area, and a surprising number of boat-owners from the Chicago-Milwaukee megalopolis.

Together the two firms warehouse and provide fenced yard storage for well over 1,000 power and sailboats.

Great Lakes Marina is a spin-off of a major marine construction and aggregate company, itself an outgrowth of a firm founded by a former Seabee just after World War II.

Torresen Marine is a 38-year-old family firm that started when the founder — Gordon Torresen — wearied of part-time repairs of other people’s boat motors.

According to Kathleen Torresen — the firm’s second-generation general manager — the company has 21,000 square feet of heated indoor storage space for boats and a 60,000-square-foot unheated warehouse.

Torreson also has 10 acres of fenced outdoor space for boat storage, some of it in an old industrial site, though currently it uses only about six of those acres.

Great Lakes, the larger company, has a boat yard of roughly equivalent size, plus 100,000 square feet of heated indoor space for boats, including a 20,000-square-foot display room for brokerage vessels.

Both companies have marinas and launching facilities.

People who drive by the two companies usually are struck by the clangor of sailboat stays being whipped by the wind against masts.

And though Great Lakes stores large numbers of sailing craft, it tends to be more oriented toward power boating. Meanwhile, the sailing crowd tends to gravitate toward Torresen’s, which markets several sailing lines. It also specializes in repair and maintenance of such vessels. The firm has a sailing advantage, too, in that it’s situated within an easy stroll of the Muskegon Yacht Club.

Both companies have advised the Business Journal in the past that they tend to have a significant number of Chicago area tenants because their storage rates are substantially cheaper than in the Windy City.

John Bultema, the principal of Great Lakes, was not available for an interview and the firm’s Web site quoted no rates.

Torresen said her firm’s storage fees vary according to the type of storage — by linear foot in the yard, and square footage in the warehouses.

She said that storing a modest-sized sailboat in the yard might run in the neighborhood of $700 a season.

Interior storage rates for a comparable vessel would be twice to three times as high, depending upon whether it’s in the unheated or heated warehouse.

For information concerning heated storage of an ocean-going competition sailboat — Torresen has stored several of them over the years — the place to go is the cost calculator on the company’s Web site, www.torresen.com.

“Price is one reason the Chicago business comes here,” Torresen said, “but we also think our reputation has something to do with it.”

She said the company’s storage contract application contains spaces where an owner can list repairs or maintenance work to be done during the winter.

Thus, work proceeds through the winter on anything from engine repairs to painting.

Springtime is busy as sailing enthusiasts begin bringing their vessels out of storage with greater or lesser amounts of assistance in matters ranging from re-rigging to tune-ups.

Torresen said as many as 100 boats may remain in storage throughout the summer.

She stresses that if a boat owner wants heated storage for next winter, this would be a good time to add one’s name to the list. “We occasionally have more clients than we can handle.”    

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