Prince William Marina: Selling Fun!

Google+ Pinterest LinkedIn Tumblr +

By Amy Falkofske

Carlton Phillips grew up near the water in Gloucester, Virginia, going fishing, clamming and crabbing. Those were some his fondest memories as a kid. Now he sells boats to presidential candidates and congressmen at Prince William Marina in Woodbridge, but he says that what used to be a hobby only for the rich is now accessible to anyone.

“Almost any family now can afford a boat and go boating,” said Phillips. “If you went to Disney for a week and took your family, you could own a boat and have a vacation every weekend for that kind of money,” he said.

Humble Beginnings to Success

Before owning the marina, Phillips owned an auto repair shop and raced cars. He sold the auto repair shop when he went in with a partner and bought a small business in Occoquan also called Prince William Marina almost 40 years ago. It only had about 30 or 40 boats. They stayed there 15 years and then moved 1/8 mile down the road to the location that Prince William Marina occupies today.

Their current location comprises about 13 acres of land and includes a showroom, a boatel, a service department, a canvas shop, the Electric Palm restaurant with a tiki bar inside, three bath houses, a heated swimming pool, a tennis court and a boardwalk.

The marina houses about 600 boats. Phillips said his business took off immediately simply by providing a needed service.

“The secret to the business was taking care of people’s boats and repairing them and getting them back to them so they would have them, because when I bought the place there were boats that had been sitting there for three months and nobody had worked on them,” he said. “So we started working on boats and fixed them and BOOM! Everything took off after that, and we’ve become very successful.”

Since then, Prince William Marina has been voted the number one marine dealer in North America twice, which has also landed them in the Hall of Fame.

Phillips works at the marina, not just overseeing all the management and service, but also doing welding and fiberglass work.

“I’m a hands-on mechanic, and once I bought the marina I started working down there,” he said.

“Everything to Do With Boats”

Electric Palm, PW Marina, TCOB0720

The Electric Palm restaurant at the marina features a tiki bar. Photo provided by Prince William Marina

Phillips says that whatever a boat owner could possibly need, you can get at Prince William Marina. Not only does the marina sell boats, but they service them as well. They also sell fuel and gas.

If you’re planning to take your boat out, you can order lunch ahead of time from the Electric Palm restaurant, which serves seafood and typical American fare, including shrimp, crab legs and appetizers. You can buy ice for your cooler, as well.

The marina is like a mini resort. In addition to the heated swimming pool, bath houses and tennis court, there is a sand pit for kids to play in and feel like they’re at the beach. If you want to cook out, there are grills. There’s also a volleyball court and a playground.

Boat maintenance classes are available at the marina on Thursdays for customers who bought a boat or are looking to buy a boat from the marina. The Coast Guard holds classes on site, as well.

Exceptional Customer Service

The showroom and service department are open Tuesday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. They are closed on Mondays, but Phillips readily gives out his cell phone number to boat owners, customers and would-be customers, and says he will answer it 24/7.

“That’s how you create family and friends rather than customers,” he said.

Phillips’ customer service motto is, “Do what needs to be done and when you leave a boat, make sure it’s cleaner than it was when you got on it.”

That exceptional customer service appears to be paying off, as business has been more than steady at the marina this year. “It’s on fire. We’re selling boats faster than we’ve sold in years,” said Phillips.

A Family Business

Phillips has made his marine business a family affair, not just with his biological family, but with dedicated employees who are like family.

“Nobody needs what we sell, and we realize that and all of my employees know that, and we all work together as a family. My wife works here, my son works here, my grandsons work here,” he said.

Phillips’ wife, Debbie, runs the slip rental. His son, Doug, is the service manager and a Master Technician, one of only a handful in the country. Phillips’ grandson, DJ, is a forklift operator in the boatel, putting boats in the water and taking them out. His other grandson, Corey, is involved in all aspects of the business.

The average employee at Prince William Marina has been there about 16 years according to Phillips. Michele Price, the general manager, started right after college as a parts person and has been there for 32 years.

Community Outreach

Once a year, Prince William Marina hosts the Patriot Cruise/Wounded Warrior Event where they bus in 40 wounded warriors from Walter Reed and Fort Belvoir to come onsite and take a boat ride with marina customers. Once they get back, they have a picnic with a band and an awards ceremony.

Prince William Marina also donates money to Fisher House Foundation every year, an organization closely tied to the Wounded Warrior Project.

Go Boating

Phillips feels that boating is all about families. “Boating is a family sport,” he said. “Families that boat together, stay together,” he also said.

Even the sign out front urges families to go boating. It says, “Safe, family fun. Go boating!”

If you’re in the market for a boat and want to visit Prince William Marina, they are located at 12849 Gordon Road in Woodbridge, or you can call 703-494-6611.

Amy Falkofske is a freelance writer and photographer. She has a Master’s degree in Film-TV with a concentration in screenwriting. She lives in Bristow with her husband, two boys and two Beagle dogs.


Comments are closed.