HOW THIS FAMILY OWNED AND OPERATED YACHT SALES AND SERVICE BUSINESS HAS REMAINED AT THE UPPER DECK OF THE INDUSTRY FOR 45 YEARS
BY AMANDA McCOY • PHOTOS BY ROBERT NUZZIE
In 1973, Larry Gahr purchased a marina along the Beaver Dam Creek in Brick, with plans to use the space as both a marina and boat service operation under the moniker Comstock Boat Works. After only two years in business, the owner expanded the operation to include the sale of high end boats, while maintaining the service department. Nearly half a century later, the award winning operation, now called Comstock Yacht Sales & Marina, is still fully family owned and operated, and has grown be to a Boating Industry Top 100 Dealer and one of very few Five Star Marine Industry Certified Dealers in the Garden State.
“We are a true family business. When you buy a boat from us, we welcome you into a family,” added John Eskow, a marketing and sales associate with the company and a longstanding friend of the Gahr clan.
A bloodline runs deep in the business, with Gahr’s son, Chip Gahr, now at the helm. Both the vice president and the treasurer, Don Ditzel and Debbie Gahr, are also family members, and a third generation recently joined the sales department, Dane Gahr and Hannah Kerrigan.
“Growing up, everyone knew that if you were going to get a job in the marina, you wanted to work here,” said Eskow, who joined the operation in 2002. “One of the things that has made us so successful is that we are an exceptionally close knit group. Comstock has 25 full time employees, and treats every one as if he or she is related. When customers buy a boat, they also become a part of this crew.”
This inclusive philosophy helps ease tensions during the buying process, explained the sales associate. Whether it’s a customer’s first or tenth boat, the staff works to make the process as laid back and transparent as possible, even taking congratulatory photos and video footage for social media once someone takes ownership.
“We have a relaxed atmosphere; it’s low pressure, and we try to make the process as fun and friendly as possible. What happens frequently is…one customer purchases a boat, then the following generations come in down the line. Larry and Chip sold someone a boat years ago, and now their sons and grandsons are coming in to buy. The biggest satisfaction is having customers come back, or referring family and friends.”
Comstock’s essential services are three fold: new boat sales from four of the industry’s leading manufacturers; pre owned boat sales; and a full service and parts departments.
Vessel inventory covers the needs of nearly every type of seafarer, from the hardcore fisherman to the casual family boater. Comstock has carried the Regulator line since 1994, and has earned its Platinum Dealer award (the manufacturer’s highest recognition) each year since. In the last two years, the company has welcomed three new lines to its Beaver Dam Creek showroom, including Grady White, Four Winns, and the newest addition, Everglades. By the end of 2016, Comstock had earned the Grady White Admirals Circle Award for Excellence in Sales and Service, an honor that recognizes dealers with the highest customer satisfaction ratings across the globe, and has obtained the award each year since. The largest model currently available in the Comstock inventory and also on the company’s “Featured Boat List” for July is Grady White’s Freedom 375, a 37 foot dual console design powered by three 350 horsepower Yamaha Helm Master four stroke outboard motors that offers ample room for a crowd, and, a Grady White description reads, “comfort to satisfy the most demanding customer…a superb offshore fishing boat and a wonderful cruise boat.” (Yamaha outboard sales are an additional Comstock specialty.)
With more than 100 slips, the 45 year old marina stocks everything from the classics to the latest crazes in the trade. “We strive to push the trends, not react to them,” said Eskow, adding that, in addition to sales and maintenance, the company will, for example, work one on one with a purchaser to fine tune their maritime skills, whether they are experienced or a boating novice.
“We had a recent customer purchase a 30 foot Grady White…his first boat,” he said. “We set him up with one of our teaching captains, and I just watched him go underneath the bridge by himself.”
Helping a new boater get comfortable behind the wheel, Eskow further explained, finds one of its most pivotal tasks in the docking process. While correctly navigating open waters is vital, greater intimidation lies in getting a vessel into and out of a slip.
“We teach you how to park the car,” he said with a smile. “Anyone can get behind the wheel and fly the plane, but it’s the takeoff and landing that challenges. So we work with customers to help with the docking process When buying, people are thrown by size sometimes, too, but what’s key is getting into something you are not going to outgrow.”
The company has, additionally, been involved in community charity events since its first year in business. In July of 1973, the original owner offered his marina as the launch point for the Elks Camp Moore boat ride for children with special needs, organized by the New Jersey State Elks Association a tradition that continues every summer. The team also raffles away an exclusive ride on its biggest boat each year to benefit the Society for Prevention of Teen Suicide. It’s also an ardent supporter of the annual Sinderella’s Ball in Asbury Park, and helps the Emmanuel Cancer Foundation with their children’s wish lists every holiday season.
Comstock Yacht Sales and Marina
704 Princeton Ave, Brick / 732.899.2500 / comstockyachtsales.com