Saturday, November 15, 2014

The Harbor Report: West Marine will point the way

Matt Jessner Newport Beach West Marine General Manager

By Len Bose
November 14, 2014 | 3:09 p.m.

With the holidays quickly approaching, I thought it would be interesting to walk into West Marine and talk to the different department managers.
Matt Jessner, the general manager, has been with the company for four years. He started at the Long Beach store and arrived in Newport Beach a week ago.
Jessner enthusiastically explained that the Newport Beach store is the largest West Marine on the West Coast and "the leading edge of the new face of West Marine." He said the new face is all about product knowledge and keeping a large inventory in electronics, fishing gear, apparel and rigging.
When I asked him why customers should come into the store rather than shop online, he replied, "You will receive professional service with expert advice on which product will best meet your use."
I then was introduced to Bryce Fuller, the electronics manager. Fuller has been with the company for seven years and at the Newport Beach store since its opening one year ago.
When I asked Fuller what was the best-selling electronic item, he quickly pointed out the Simrad Evo 2 Chartplotter/Multifunction display with touch screen. I asked him what might be the best holiday gift, and he replied, "There is so much to consider. One idea would be the Flir One. We are one of the only stores that has this product on hand. The Flir One is a case for the iPhone 5 and is an infrared camera attachment."
West Marine Rigging Gorden "Gordo" Christie

To me, this looks like a perfect gift for boaters who would like to read the temperature of their engine's cooling system or their first mate. Fuller also provided me with a couple of other holiday gift ideas when I brought up safety at sea: handheld VHF radios and a personal lifejacket AIS beacon that can be seen on your new chart plotter.
An even better thing to wear on your lifejacket is a personal locater beacon, or PLB. This device uses satellites to pinpoint that unfortunate crew member who unexpectedly went for a swim. I am going to buy one for myself for the upcoming sailing season.
Next, I walked over to Keri Hynes, who runs apparel and has been with the company for eight years. Her favorite product in the store for the holidays? "I like the Luci inflatable solar lantern," she said. "They come in different colors and only weigh 4 ounces."
The Newport Beach store has a ton of clothing, and this time of the year, the best deals can be found in summer wear. For example, Reyn Spooner and Tommy Bahama are marked down.
Hynes was quick to point out that this store carries women's tall Bearpaw boots.
"We do our best to listen to our customers' needs and then match them up with the best products," she said, adding that a customer might need a furry blanket for the upcoming boat parade or be preparing for next year's Trans Pac race to Hawaii.
I asked her opinion on the best value in sunglasses. "We sell a lot of Maui Jim and Costa sunglasses," she said. "Both companies are quick to respond to their customer returns should they break a lens or frame. If I was to pick one, it would have to be the Costa."
Continuing through the store, I met up with Dawn Davis, who manages the fishing gear. Davis has worked in the fishing industry for 11 years, and I noticed she knew more about fishing than I do about sailing.
She is another employee who pays close attention to her customers' requirements. Whether you are a beginner or advanced angler, she can set you up with all you need from gear to bait. When I asked her what she had behind the counter that would be difficult to find this season, she pointed out the two-speed Penn Fathoms reels, sizes 15 to 60.
My last stop was with my good friend Gorden "Gordo" Christie in the rig shop. Gordo has been working in the rig shop since the store opened.
"We can do anything with line, wire and chain," he explained while ordering me parts for my Harbor 20's mast. "If we do not have what you are looking for, we can get it for you."
I walked out of West Marine feeling that this team is ready to help. The store is becoming the hub of the harbor. I continually run into customers or industry people there.
Sea ya.

LEN BOSE is an experienced boater, yacht broker and boating columnist.

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