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Set sale: Pleasure-craft retail vet says buying boats all about taste
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Photo: John Greenwood
Tempo Marine salesman Kevin Williamson straddles a wave runner as the huge craft behind him dwarfs the ride.
EAST MOLINE -- Kevin Williamson folds his hands, pushes back ever-so-slightly in his chair and chuckles.

"What's really cool is when families stop (by), because there is enough neat stuff in this building to make young people stop texting,'' the veteran pleasure-craft salesman said, pointing to the inventory at Tempo Marine. Inventory at the store includes (Can-Am Spyder)motorcycles, personal water craft, ATVs and pleasure crafts. "There is plenty to make this business interesting for everyone.''

Mr. Williamson is a 20-year veteran of the pleasure boat and personal water craft industry. He sold automobiles before boats, bikes and ATVs. There are trends as to what is popular in the pleasure-craft world, but it boils down to taste.

"Ican tell you Sea Ray and Bayliner are popular brands; I would call them the 'Ford' of the business,'' said Mr. Williamson, a Springfield, Ill., native, who resides in Moline. "I can tell you the 17- to 23-foot open bow boat is the most popular used and new water craft. And there is a demand for the used end of things, simply because boats are something people take care of and don't have enormous wear and tear. By that, I mean it's not like driving a car every day.''

Statistics, according to Mr. Williamson, are just that. Boating is about preference. You can spend more than $100,000 for a luxury craft or less than $10,000 for a used, properly maintained boat.

"Larger boats are big,'' Mr. Williamson added. "You can get just about anything to suit your taste. I get the biggest kick watching a family come in and sit in a boat, check out the beds, the hot-water showers and all the extras that come with it. It's like a play area for the kids. Thing is, if someone is boat shopping, they have an idea what they want, and they are informed about what we offer. People today really do their homework.''

Personal water crafts are huge these days, replacing some of the standards of the past.

"Those are boats for some people,'' Mr. Williamson said of the single- and two-seat WaveRunners. "Zero to 50 (miles per hour) in three seconds is one of the attractions. You can't ride them at night, so you and your family can't park them and watch the fireworks like you can in other boats, but they are fun. And those folks who buy the bigger pleasure crafts often buy a personal water craft to tie and jet around while anchored.''

Having water surrounding the Quad-Cities is a plus for the pleasure-craft hopeful, said Mr. Williamson, who owns several motorcycles and two vintage automobiles. His bikes and his cars are his "spare'' time, though he does not ride his motorcycles as often as he used to.

"What can't you do and where can't you go with water?'' Mr. Williamson said, pointing to the many water-related options for the boater. "One day upriver to Savanna or up to Dubuque, Iowa, down to Muscatine, Iowa. You have the Mississippi, and you have the Rock rivers. You can tie up with other boats and make a day of it, you can ski or you can find a beach. You only have a certain window to be on the water, I know, but there is plenty to do and plenty of places to go in that time.''

And him?

"I love it all,'' he said. "I love the environment that is this business.''

Business is good for a variety of reasons, including working for a time-tested company.

"Even when gas was at $4 a gallon, things were good,'' Mr. Williamson said. "Good because people are smart. Even if they are out in their boat from 9 a.m. until 9 p.m., they are not operating the craft all 12 hours. It's not like you are driving a car for 12 hours. A boat is like anything else that is an investment -- you do your best to get the most out of it.''

At age 58, Mr. Williamson, who has all the traits of a first-rate stand-up comedian, said all is well. There is no timetable as to how much longer he will stay in the industry. He does know a few things about the future of his business.

"I know people want to have fun and all this can offer them a good time,'' he said. "That's what it's about. It's about having fun at what you do, and I sell fun. I believe there will always be a need for the boating industry, especially in an area with plenty of water like we have. It's just a matter of how involved people want to be.''

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