(Above) Guests at a launch party at Marina Citys marina on Wednesday were treated to rides on the Chicago River aboard two electric-powered boats, including the Miss Chloe seen here, owned by a new venture by two Jefferson Beach Yacht Sales executives. (Click on images to view larger versions.)
19-Apr-12 The company that sells million-dollar yachts out of Marina City and five other locations is turning to small electric boats to bring in more traffic.
Jefferson Beach Yacht Sales, based in St. Clair Shores, Michigan, has started Chicago Electric Boat Company to rent boats to tourists and natives alike, up to ten at a time. For $150 an hour, a nine percent Chicago Amusement Tax, a $500 security deposit, and a signed liability waiver, amateur admirals can now navigate the Chicago River, this side of any lock, any day of the week as long as the boat is back by closing time which three days out of the week is as late as 11:30 p.m.
We were trying to figure out how to draw more people down to Marina City, explained Greg Krueger, president of Jefferson Beach Yacht Sales, at a launch party on Wednesday. So we said maybe we could do some kind of a rental program with the little boats. I made some phone calls, we bought two, and here we are.
Krueger says it was Ron Silvia, now president of their start-up, who suggested the electric boats made in California by Duffy Electric Boat Company. Silvia, a Coast Guard licensed captain, worked at the Marina City location for Kruegers son, Erik. When Erik wanted to return to Michigan, Ron took over.
Erik Krueger is now a boat and yacht broker for a competing company, Galati Yacht Sales. Still, his father says they talk at least once a day.
The Duffy boats, which cost between $18,000 and $35,000, are according to the Chicago companys web site, as easy as driving a golf cart with a top speed of about seven miles per hour. USCG licensed captains and tour guides are available for additional hourly rates, as well as catering provided by neighborhood restaurants like Bar Louie, Dicks Last Resort, and House of Blues.
||(Left) Employees of the Drake Hotel and House of Blues get sent up the river, approaching the DuSable Bridge from the west.
Not giving up the big boats
Jefferson Beach Yacht Sales has been at Marina City for about five years. Krueger says the marina level was a rats nest when they took over from Skipper Buds, which was leasing the space year-to-year.
I have over a hundred grand pumped into this joint, he says. We were able to slide in and put a deal together with a ten-year lease and two five-year renewals. I came in here and we gutted everything. Spent a lot of money. Cleanup is a constant, constant, constant chore.
Boat owners, who pay JBYS as much as $14,200 to store their boats year-round, are required to have their boats cleaned at least once a week.
The economy tanked on us right when we took over, recalls Krueger. We were struggling like everybody, trying to figure out how were even going to survive. But we were not going to give up Chicago. I almost gave up my main store. But we made it through and survived. And we have a whole new business model structured right now.
Despite some initial struggles, breaking through Chicagos little clique, the company, says Krueger, is coming along real good.
Over the last 18-20 months weve seen a nice little up-tick in business. [Silvia has] already had eight and a half million dollars booked out of this facility in business. We think its going to be $10-15 million bare minimum out of here. Were very excited.
(Left to right) Greg Krueger, president of Jefferson Beach Yacht Sales, his wife, Judy Krueger, who manages the companys office in Charlevoix, Michigan, and Ron Silvia, in charge of the Chicago office and president of Chicago Electric Boat Company.
Web site: Chicago Electric Boat Company