For 30 years, Marc Stoner has operated an auto paint and body shop in South Miami’s commercial warehouse district. In his spare time, he loves to go saltwater fishing and has passed that passion down to his nephew Josh, 27. The two have fished on plenty of inshore and offshore boats and overhauled a few, finding ways to make those boats more fishable.
Recently they launched Stoner Boatworks in a bay behind the repair shop and will display their new 23-foot custom-built fishing boat at the Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show, which runs Thursday through Monday at six sites. They’ll also take orders for a 26-footer, which won’t be at the show.
The Stoners say the aim of their new company is to incorporate features found on big yachts into small fishing boats and customize them however the buyer desires.
“We try to set them up so the customer can design the entire inside of the boat according to his needs,” Josh said. “There is no checklist with us. They tell us what they’d like.”
Only the hull and the center console are standard features on Stoner boats. The fiberglass hull is a fusion of Palm Beach and Carolina styles with a sharp entry, flared bow and an hourglass-shaped stern which the Stoners say makes for a smooth, dry ride. Unlike most small boats, the console is closeable to protect electronics from weather and theft. Power options on the 23 are single or twin outboards to a maximum of 300 horsepower. The 26 can have diesel power or single or twin outboards. Everything else about the boats is completely open to suggestion: number and location of coolers, live wells, rod holders, fish boxes and storage lockers. All are built by hand.
“We are the only ones building this style of boats in South Florida,” Marc said.
The boats are not inexpensive: $85,000 is the base price for the 23 and $135,000 for the 26. The Stoners say their handful of customers so far are yacht owners who wanted a small boat for fishing and wakeboarding with the kids or a tender to ferry passengers ashore.
The Stoners had planned to launch their company in 2006 but put it on ice during the recession. The recreational boating industry took a big hit during the downturn but rebounded in 2012 with an increase of 10.7 percent in retail sales of new power and sailboats, according to the National Marine Manufacturers Association. Sales through the first half of 2013 are relatively unchanged, the trade group said.
Meanwhile, about 230 new recreational boat companies have sprung up, including several in South Florida, since September of last year, according to U.S. Coast Guard statistics provided by the NMMA.
“It’s a huge gamble, I know that,” Marc said of his new company. “We’re gambling with our money. Between the two of us, I think we can make it work.”