By Mark Frost, Chronicle Editor
“I’ve been in the boat business for 50 years,” George Pensel told The Chronicle from Florida Monday in response to our call. “I’ve learned a little bit about doing real estate, but I don’t know nearly as much about doing deals in real estate as I know about doing deals in boats.”
In a nutshell, he said, that explains why he abandoned his plan to buy the Lake George Forum and turn it into a showroom and headquarters for his Boats By George business.
“It was getting into the $5-million range,” he said, to buy the building from Ralph Macchio and accomplish the transformation that Mr. Pensel envisioned. He said construction estimates came in “two or three times” higher than he expected.
“This would have been something that I could have left behind, you know, a legacy,” but he said, “it was getting a little crazy.”
Mr. Pensel says, “Things are going just fine. We’re doing great. Our customers are gonna be happy. We’ll learn something here.”
He said at Boats By George, “the start of 2021 is the best we’ve ever had.”
But, “like everybody in the recreation side of things — bicycle shops — inventory is questionable. It’s kind of getting rationed a little bit. There’s some uncertainty there.”
Plus, he said, “in December and January we were getting bad news every day — the amp-up for the vaccines weren’t looking good; now they’re looking a lot better.
“The news of the economy was questionable. People were getting sick. Variants were out there.”
Add in construction estimates coming in so high, “the project got out of control.”
“With all that,” he said, “I kind of lost my steam, felt that maybe I was getting too aggressive to start on the project, agreed to too high of a price for the facility. In hindsight, the energy level went down for that, the creativity level went down a lot.”
“I decided, things are good for us. We don’t have to have this. Inventories — I don’t know when we’re going to be back to the norm in that regard. We’re selling everything we can get our hands on.”
Mr. Pensel said Boats By George sold “close to 200 boats” last year,” up “about 20 percent.”
This year, he said, “we have been selling boats all winter and taking orders. We’ve done a really good job.” He said his inventory of 50 boats is “now down to 40-something in stock” and “maybe about 15 boats to be manufactured.”
He said his sons “Adam and Andrew are doing a great job,” and with 30-some employees overall, “now I got a team.”
Asked his age, Mr. Pensel says he’ll turn 56 in May. “I try to be ageless,” he says.
You sense he yearns for the project that got away. He muses maybe he could redo the Forum less ambitiously, without new sales offices or marketing center. “Maybe we’ll develop a showroom,” he says, “but how we go about it I’m not exactly sure.”
“You know it’s bittersweet,” Mr. Pensel says. “You don’t have a crystal ball. If it’s something we really want to do, we can always get back to it. Next year, maybe 2023, who knows what the future holds?”
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