Candlewood East Marina
Situated just an hour north of New York City on Candlewood Lake, Candlewood East Marina “enjoys one of the most ideal locations in New England,” says vice president Mitch O’ Hara Jr.
The dealership made a major investment to take full advantage of that location with its 8,500-square-foot waterfront Club House, opened in 2013. Available only to members and guests of its marina club – which now has a waiting list for membership – the Club House includes a restaurant, conference center, convenience store, showers and changing rooms and more.
It was a tough investment to make in the wake of the recession, but one that shows Candlewood East’s commitment to future growth.
“With our new club facility we also look forward to continual improvements on our customer’s overall boating experience,” O’Hara said. “Increased club events that we offer will continue to keep out customers engaged in the boating lifestyle and in turn help grow our clientele.”
That was only five years after the dealership opened its 40,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art showroom, pro shop service department and heated indoor storage facility across the street from its marina.
Those improvements helped Candlewood East earn an award for the facility upgrades in 2014 from its Cobalt 20 group, which includes this year’s Dealer of the Year Gordy’s Lakefront Marine, past winner Legendary Marine and several other Top 20 dealers.
In 2014, Candlewood East also began to prepare for its future success by bringing the third generation of the O’Hara family into the business. (President Mitch O’Hara Sr. founded the company in 1983.)
“By bringing in more of our family, we are not only expanding our business but giving it a future in which the staff are just as passionate about the business as I am,” O’Hara said.
At the same time, the dealership is also working to bring more structure to its board and staff meetings as the company grows.
“By adding more structure to the meetings and creating and adhering to a regular meeting schedule we have been able to implement better communication amongst all team members and departments,” O’Hara said. “This has led to better accountability and more goals being set and accomplished.”
Candlewood East ramped up its marketing in 2014 as well, focusing on three core areas: direct mail, digital marketing and boat shows.
“Research has shown that almost 50 percent of potential boat buyers respond positively to direct mail marketing,” O’ Hara said. “This number far surpassed all other channels, making it an important point of focus for our marketing efforts.”
Along with the direct mail, digital marketing plays an important role in driving traffic to the dealership’s showroom, events and boat shows as the first introduction to the company and its team.
“A lot of time, money and effort goes into our boat shows, so we do everything we can to draw out this three to five-day event into something we can leverage for several weeks,” O’Hara said. “We send out ‘Save the Date’ mailers and email blasts. We complement this with digital banner ads on our website, as well as a landing page on our website. Lastly, we use our sales staff as a very important arm of our marketing efforts. Through their calls and emails to existing and prospective customers we work to drive excitement about boat show events and even more important drive them to the show.”
Candlewood East also holds or sponsors several events to help raise awareness and support the community.
“Candlewood East Marina has been in business for over 30 years thanks to our employees’ hard work and dedication, but we would be remiss if we didn’t recognize the importance our local community has played in our success,” O’Hara said. “As such, we make sure to give back in a way that will benefit the town and boaters alike.”