Special Recognition – Fire Response
Vallely Sport & Marine
Disasters can strike anywhere and the financial cost to individuals and businesses can be staggering.
Vallely Sport & Marine suffered a July 2017 dealership fire that destroyed its Minot building and about $1 million in inventory. Sixteen months later, the only Top 100 dealer in North Dakota has come back stronger than ever.
For General Manager and Co-Owner Tim Vallely, a somber reality set in the day after the fire when he visited the post office to pick up the mail.
“After getting back in the car, I looked at the mail sitting there on the seat and thought, “What do I do now? Where do I go to open the mail?’” he recalls. “We had nothing. That’s when things got real for me.”
Co-Owner Josh Vallely was in Bismarck when he learned about the fire. “I got a 3 a.m. phone call,” he says. “It was kind of a surreal moment, because I drove up with my Dad, and for the hour-and-a-half drive, we watched our business burn down live on streaming social media.” The fire burned for 12 hours; crews finished at the scene around 4 p.m. on a Friday. Through a massive organizational effort, Vallely Sport & Marine opened back up on a Monday. “We made the decision right then and there that we were going open back up, and come back stronger,” Josh says.
Vallely Sport & Marine operated in a reduced mode until freeze-up in October, Tim recalls. “We had to get inside somewhere, so found an old RV and car dealership that had no showroom but a shop, and we set up a temporary showroom in there. We operated out of that until spring. Then, an old boat and RV dealership three doors down from our new facility opened up.”
Real estate succession planning became crucial part of the post-fire recovery effort, Josh adds.
“My Dad, John, had recently retired from the business, and didn’t want to rebuild. Tim and I had made the decision that we did want to rebuild, so we had to do a lot of soul-searching. We had to navigate the buy-out of my Dad on the real estate issue, and create a whole new business partnership. Once we agreed on that, we launched into facility planning.”
Vallely Sport & Marine upsized its new Minot building from a 10,000 square-foot facility to a 25,000 square-foot facility that opened in November.
“The flow in and out of the showroom, the unloading of boats, and our delivery area are all integrated,” Josh says.
Participation in a Spader 20 Group was critical when it came time to thinking about a new building design, Josh says. “The text, emails and phone calls from this group was incredibly supportive. They offered succession planning and financial advice; and we also had great support from the community and our chamber of commerce.”
Tim and Josh are extremely thankful for their employees. “They stuck with us, and have gone through many emotions, We have a lot of long-term employees, and we were happy to retain most of them,” Tim says.
One of the many lessons Tim and Josh learned going through a fire involved insurance and employee technician tool coverage. All of the dealership’s technicians were responsible for insuring their personal tools. The management duo found out after the fire that none of the technicians had coverage or the available money to repurchase tools. One technician had over $120,000 in tools destroyed. Tim and Josh made a long-term decision to extend some insurance to help them out.
“The technician shortage is a major problem in our industry and if we wouldn’t have done that we would have lost over three good technicians,” Tim says. “Hopefully, this will pay dividends in the long run.”