Sam and Delores Phillips have influenced the local economy and community by investing not only in a successful business, but also a recreational spinoff that has spawned tourism growth in the Lakeway Area.
The Morristown Marine Team Trail Invitational was founded in 2007, less than a year after the couple took over operations of the marine dealership (established 1982) located near the entrance to Cherokee Park, off Davy Crockett Parkway. Beginning with 100 members in 2007, the fishing tournament grew to more than 500 in 2012.
During the 10 a.m. ribbon cutting for a new 5,000 square foot showroom on Feb. 15 –
a kickoff to the three-day open house celebration continuing Sunday afternoon from 1 to 5 p.m. – Sam acknowledged the partnerships that have enabled the dealership to enjoy success in two realms, even during a struggling economy.
Sam told a crowd of supporters, including ambassadors and staff of the Morristown Area Chamber of Commerce, the influence to participate in the community was generated by one man in particular, Kevin Polston.
“This is why,” Sam said as he introduced Polston, a representative of Skeeter Performance Bass Boats, who provided food for the occasion, including “world-famous” Skeeter beans and slaw, as he has for several of the Phillips’ fishing tournaments.
“It’s amazing what they have done here in the past three years,” Polston said. He later added that he has been in the boat business for 27 years.
“Skeeter is one of the oldest boat companies in the United States; it’s been around since 1948. We did not have a big presence in this area until Sam came along.
“I’ve seen a lot of downturns in the economy, a lot of lulls; this has been by far the worst. Boating is by its nature a cyclical business; yet, we hit unchartered waters in 2008 through 2009,” he said. “But we’re coming out of it.”
Sam and Delores added a new service garage soon after getting into the business, with the intention of soon investing in a large showroom; however the economic challenges convinced them, along with lender Mountain Commerce Bank, to delay the expansion.
According to Delores, construction began after New Year’s in 2012 and around six months later, 18 boats were brought in. A standing dock was built to allow easy access to the Xcursion pontoon boats. In addition to Xcursion and Skeeter, Morristown Marine offers Alumacraft fishing boats and Yamaha, Mercury and Evinrude outboards.
Friday’s ribbon cutting meant more to Sam than a clean swipe with the Chamber’s oversized shears, as customers began targeting several boats in the showroom.
T.J. Fugate of Kingsport leaned up against a Skeeter model, with friend Jim “Sundancer” Kidwell who made the trip from his home in Damascus, Va. to attend the open house. It was his first visit to the dealership.
“We’re trying to trade boats,” Kidwell said. “So far, we like the way they’re talking.”
According to information at www.morristownmarine.com, Morristown Marine LLC is “dedicated to building a long-term customer relationship through continuous quality training of its employees, offering superior quality products and excellence in customer service.”
The dealership services all of East Tennessee, Southwest Virginia, Western North Carolina and Eastern Kentucky, with a goal to make Morristown Marine LLC a one-stop shop for all boating needs, offering a friendly sales staff, factory trained technicians and knowledgeable customer service team.
Awards posted on the wall near the cash register include Top 10 Stratos Dealer (2008), Outstanding Dealer Award, Skeeter Boats (2010, 2011 and 2013) and Sales and Service Award, Maurell Products (2007, 2008).
Staff members are Mike Robinett, service manager; Mitch Martino, parts manager; Ty Coldwell, outboard technician; Rusty Davidson, outboard technician; Brad Shepherd, rigger/technician and Larry Moore, parts technician.
Dealership hours are Monday-Friday, 8:30 to 5 p.m. and Saturday, 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Morristown Marine is located at 2905 Cherokee Park Rd. in Morristown. For more information, call 423-587-5555.
-By Glenna Howington, Tribune Staff Writer