Torresen Keeps Sailing Right Along

May 7, 2004
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MUSKEGON — Even after nearly 39 years in business, Gordon Torresen is still learning, trying new things and expanding.

From the early days of running a small sailboat business on the side out of his garage, to an Internet sales strategy put into place in the mid-1990s that generates business from around the world, to a new, larger store that recently opened in Muskegon, Torresen has always looked at how to do it better in an ever-changing business world.

“You have to continue to grow and you have to continue to improve. If everything’s stagnant, who wants to be there?” said Torresen, president of Torresen Marine Inc. in Muskegon.

For his success in business, Torresen last week received the Muskegon Area Chamber of Commerce’s annual Entrepreneur of the Year Award for 2004.

Torresen, 72, called receiving the award humbling and “quite an honor.” He was one of the three finalists for the annual recognition, with Jack Carson, president and CEO of Custom Coatings Inc. and Great Lakes Polymers Inc., and Bill Cooper, president and owner of Omni Fitness Club, Great Lakes Jet and Sotto Grille.

A New York City native and a design engineer who came to Muskegon in 1959 to help establish the local Brunswick Corp. plant, Torresen started his marine business in the mid-1960s as a full-service marine store. The business grew out of the work he and his brother had done researching and developing hydrofoils.

An avid sailor, he left Brunswick in 1973 to run the business full time. The business grew steadily over the years as sail boating’s popularity grew, and today the venture employs more than 25 people and has annual sales of about $3.5 million.

In the mid-1990s, seeing the potential to broaden the business further, Torresen ventured into using the Internet to sell marine equipment. The strategy, launched when the Web was just beginning to catch on with the general public, has proven enormously successful for Torresen Marine, which now serves sailors in nearly 100 countries.

Torresen Marine today operates five online stores with nearly 200,000 product offerings and several sailing-related Web sites. The site will carry more than 1 million products for sale online by the end of the year.

Active in the community, Torresen has served as commodore and sponsored several events at the Muskegon Yacht Club and has been involved in numerous community and business activities. In late 2002, he was named to the Michigan Boating Industries Association Hall of Fame. 

The past winners of the Muskegon Area Chamber of Commerce’s Entrepreneur of the Year Award are:

2003: Sue Pemberton, Norton Pines Athletic Club

2002: Scott Erdman, Erdman Machine Co.

2001: Hoby Thrasher, Topo’s Italian Pizza Tavern

2000: John Darien, John Darien Homes Inc.

1999: Ed DeJonge, Hooker/DeJonge Architects Engineers

1998: Larry Larsen, Daniels Office Plus

1997: Ed Babbitt, Babbitt’s Sports Center

1996: Tony Lisman, The Muskegon Fury

1995: William Ashley, Ashley Leasing Co.

1994: Robert Carter Jr., R.J. Woodworking Inc.

1993: Don and Judy Hegedus, Tridonn Construction Co.

1992: Curtis Chambers, Pliant Plastics Corp.

1991: Jeffrey Kerr, Horizon Group

1990: Bob Scolnik, Muskegon Brake & Distribution

1989: Dave and William Mills, Mills Construction

1988: Joey Girardin, Girardin Sportswear

1987: Kenneth Almond, Almond Enterprises

1986: Louis Eklund Jr., Fleet Engineers

1985: John Workman, Mark Fazakerley and Wayne Jarvis, Eagle Alloy

1984: Patricia Bard and Linda Talkington., House of Travel

1983: Roger Jourden, Michigan’s Adventure Amusement Park

1982: Marguirite Holcombe

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