By Lucy Chabot Reed
Our second Triton Networking event in February is on the third Wednesday, Feb. 19, at Lewis Marine Supply. Make plans to join us from 6-8 p.m. at the warehouse in Fort Lauderdale to meet with and talk to the team at Lewis about the new ownership, their new yacht-focused concierge service, and their plans for the future.
Until then, learn more about the 60+-year-old company from new senior vice president of business development, AJ Nickel.
Q. Lewis Marine has been around for a long time. Tell us about the brand.
Since the 1950s, Lewis has been supplying the wholesale marine community in over 31 countries with over 20,000 items. We are in the same flagship location in Southwest Fort Lauderdale, with plans for other locations.
The customer service aspect of Lewis is what has kept the company alive for so many years, even during the toughest times. There are several employees that have been here for over 25 years and have dedicated the majority of their working careers to Lewis. It clearly shows how much they care about the company, its future and customer base.
Q. Since the change in ownership, are there any changes planned to the mission?
Since March of 2019, the new ownership has infused the company with the horsepower and direction it required to get to the next level. We are running with all-time high stock levels, and the product offerings are continually growing, now up to over 30,000 items with the recent acquisition of Jerry’s Marine.
We have embraced technology to enhance the company’s efficiency. Our reach is continually growing through our social media platforms and web presence. Soon it will be as easy as ordering online for a pick up or delivery. With 13 vehicles on the road, we are delivering from Key West to Vero Beach every weekday as well as to the west coast of Florida to Sarasota.
Our logistics department is seasoned and familiar with the international shipping protocols of over 30 countries. I guess you could say we’re the same old Lewis Marine our loyal customers remember, but with a new twist.
Q. So what’s this Supreme Marine we see advertised in the pages of The Triton?
Supreme Marine is a division of Lewis Marine created to cater to the large yacht and sportfish market. The name comes from the original tagline of Lewis Marine: “For service supreme, call Lewis Marine.” We wanted to take a piece of the Lewis legacy into the crewed yacht space. You will often see that Supreme Marine is “Powered by Lewis”.
Q. There are a lot of chandlery companies for large yachts. Why step into this space?
It only made sense for us to look at the yacht segment. As you know, we are on the Wall Street of the marine industry here in Fort Lauderdale, with a large percentage of yachts right here in our backyard for a good portion of the year.
At the end of the day, it is about making sure that the customers are taken care of. Captains should have a choice and not feel obligated to use a chandlery just because they are the only ones around. We hear it all of the time; captains want something different. It is about bettering the industry, not only here in our backyard, but around the world. If we can improve upon the level of service and product offering for the boats, why not? It will only send a message that South Florida is a great destination with a lot to offer when it comes to goods and services.
When you have a product offering like ours, it is nice to have the ability to contribute to the betterment of the industry. We have some of the strongest buying power in the marine space, which allows us to be aggressive when pricing to the customer. Why not position ourselves complimentary to the others and allow the customer to have a choice? Our infrastructure is sound and in place for it.
Q. How does Lewis’ acquisition of Jerry’s Marine fit into all that?
Jerry’s was a great addition to the Lewis brand. Its product offering complimented ours tremendously. There was only about a 40% overlap in product lines; the rest is a new and exciting offering for our existing Lewis customer.
The other advantage is that we saw a combined buying power with our shared vendors, in turn allowing us to purchase at a deeper level, creating a more aggressive selling point for our customers.
The additional product offering from Jerry’s allows us to reach into a space that even covers outboard engines. We are really encompassing the full spectrum of marine products with the recent acquisition.
Q. I hear that Lewis Marine was at METS last year. Is that a new outlet for you?
Yes, we did visit METS this year and will most certainly go back. It was the first time for Lewis and the water was warm when we stuck our toes in. We will be going back, along with doing all the big shows: Miami, Dubai, Palm Beach, Newport, Monaco, Fort Lauderdale and Antigua, just to name a few.
It’s all part of building the brand with larger yachts. To support all that travel, we have created a dedicated website for Supreme Marine, gave it its own Facebook page and started an Instagram presence (#suprememarinevip).
Q. What’s your background, AJ?
I have been in the marine industry for the majority of my career. I worked for one of the world’s largest chandleries for a long time and spent time working in the shipyard space as an account manager for over 400 vessels.
My tenure in the industry has taken me all over the world. This opportunity at Lewis Marine allows me to couple my experience into a role that can and will make a difference in the way the industry is supplied goods and services.
Captains, crew and industry professionals are welcome to join us at Lewis Marine for Triton Networking, 220 S.W. 32nd St. (33315) from 6-8 p.m. No need to RSVP; just come with a smile and some business cards because you never know who you’ll meet. For more information about Lewis, visit lewismarine.com or suprememarinevip.com, or call 954-767-1222.