By Adam Quandt
After a family vacation sparked a dream, Galati Yacht Sales with the help of family — both by blood and otherwise — has risen from a hurricane-devastated marina on Anna Maria Island in Florida, to an 11-location, multi-country customer-centric new and pre-owned boat dealer with more than 175 employees.
Founded by Michael Sr. and Anna Maria Galati in 1970, July 2020 marks 50 years of hard work, passion and pushing dreams forward for the company.
“After never taking a vacation, 10 years into our marriage, my husband decided we were going to get a big station wagon and drive to Florida with — at the time — our four children,” Anna Maria Galati said. “He [Michael Sr.] was always saying he needed goals to reach. We went and looked at homes, we found this beautiful home in Hollywood, Fla. and before we left, we purchased that home.”
Following the move from New York to Florida, Michael Sr. worked for about a year as a car salesman and a few months as a realtor, before purchasing a rundown marina that had been devastated by a hurricane on Anna Maria Island.
“We started the hard way,” Anna Maria said. “We worked for absolutely everything we had.”
Everyone played their part in making Michael Senior’s dream a reality. Anna Maria raised the family while also juggling the duties of managing the marina store and handling deliveries and billing. The five children — Joe, Carmine, Fran, Michael Jr. and Chris — all took part as well after school and on weekends and holidays.
“It was a great place to be…to grow up” remembers Mike Jr. “We all started working out on the gas docks, washing boats, catching bait to sell – whatever would help.”
The Galati children worked in a multitude of ways around the marina; repairing docks, selling shrimp and clams, anything they could do, they did it and found passions through doing it.
“From a young age, I was almost trained to recognize the sound of diesel engines backing into the marina, Chris said. “That was my cue to run down to the docks and throw the boats coming in their lines and talk to them about their catches and days out on the water.”
“My most vivid childhood memories are without question based on watching our mother work so hard,” Carmine added. “She really set a foundation and in my opinion created the nucleus for the whole family.”
With Michael Sr. tackling the customer service side of the marina and Anna Maria tackling the paperwork and operations, with the help of the children, the location began to turn around.
In 1976, the company broke into yacht sales for the first time, setting up at area boat shows — including the world-renowned Miami International Boat Show — with minimal resources.
As the sales and service side of the business continued to skyrocket, the company began to rack up accomplishments, beginning with its certification as a Cruisers Yachts dealer in 1983.
As the second generation of Galatis began to graduate high school, and explore opportunities, one by one they said they wanted to stay with the family business and continue to learn from their parents.
“Our family is built on respect and love and we had opportunities when we grew up if we wanted to go somewhere else or do something else,” Fran said. “I never did. I felt I was where I was supposed to be.”
Watching and learning from what their parents were doing while growing the business built a strong foundation for the second generation to take the reins when the family unfortunately lost Mike Sr. in 1992.
“Everything that was created, was created as an opportunity for us to learn business,” Joe said of the children’s childhood.
The second generation Galatis continued growing the company and each took on different aspects of the business according to their passions and expertise.
With strong leadership in every aspect of the business built on the foundation of their parents, the second generation took Galati Yacht Sales to new heights, becoming a Princess Yachts and Viking Yachts certified dealer in 1996 and expanding to two new locations on Florida’s Gulf coast in 1999.
“To today, there’s never been a decision that wasn’t 100% unanimous,” Joe said. “I think we were very fortunate in that each of us had different expertise and brought different talents to the table. We respected each others talents and that’s who took the lead based on what the situation was.”
As the years went on, Galati Yacht Sales, under the second generation’s leadership, continued to find success and rack up accomplishments like becoming a Marine Industry Certified Dealer in 2005 and being named Boating Industry’s Top 100 Dealer of the Year in 2007 and 2008, moving them into the Boating Industry Top 100 Hall of Fame.
“How can you not succeed when you have five minds that think a little bit differently, but have the same end goal, the same drive and the same passion that was instilled in us by our parents?” Fran said.
Today, Galati Yacht Sales has 11 dealership locations between Florida, Alabama, Texas, Mexico and Costa Rica, all delivering the exceptional customer service that Michael Sr. and Anna Maria envisioned from the beginning, with the help of 175 employees.
Despite the company’s size today, the core values focused on respect, loyalty, passion, dedication and most importantly family remain through and through.
“Team Galati is everybody that’s a part of us. The team that we have is second to none,” Joe said. “From on the docks to on the water, from employees to customers, everyone understands that when you’re a part of team Galati, you’re going to be taken care of.”
“We are a loyal company. We’re loyal to our customers, we’re loyal to our vendors, we’re loyal to our employees and we’re loyal to ourselves,” Mike Jr. added.
“This is my family and a dream job all in one,” said longtime Galati employee Spanky Hill. “It’s been an honor growing alongside the Galati family and watching the growth of the company for the 27 years that I’ve been here. The level that this company cares for each of it’s employees is incomparable.”
Fifty years after a dream became a reality, family continues to drive Galati Yacht sales forward. The third generation of Galatis have known engrained themselves within the business.
Carmine’s oldest son even got married at the original Anna Maria location.
“I was really kind of surprised when he picked this venue, but as the night unfolded it was just absolutely astounding.” “To have employees, customers, friends, family and watch the whole place transform from the place of work, to the place where he got married and started his married life is just awesome.”
The passion and love for every aspect of the business has percolated into every member of team Galati and is setting up the company for a strong future.
“The passion and the drive of the entire second generation has really been instilled in the third and I really believe that’s why we all feel dedicated and passionate about this business and we’ve all come in one by one to take a seat at that table,” Michael C. Galati said.
From a third generation entering the business, to the birth of the fourth generation, to employees and customers that have become family, team Galati is setting up to carry on the traditions set by Michael Sr. and Anna Maria far into the future.
“I can’t see us slowing down anytime soon,” Galati Yacht Sales COO and CFO Darren Plymale said. “I see this continuing to grow. With generation three coming and sharing the same values, the same philosophies, the same passion for what we do, I see us continuing to grow and providing customers with great experiences on the water wherever we’re at.”
“I’m overwhelmed,” Anna Maria said while reflecting on her family and the last 50 years. “My heart is filled with joy and I’m excited. I can’t explain it any other way. For all of them, each and every one of them has the same qualities of their parents and what I taught them. They’re dedicated, smart, they strive to learn product knowledge. They love working in the family business. They love working with each other and they have each other’s back. How could we not make it? I’m proud.”