Recent History of Newport Shipyard
I remember well as a bidder at the bankruptcy court when the Shipyard went to auction on the last day of July, '98. We sat a few rows from our attorney with explicit directions on him bidding for us. He wasn't to hesitate as he bettered each competing bid... to a point... then, full stop. Never turn his head for signals, hopefully giving the impression we'd have gone to the moon to buy it. We were up against the Cohen brothers, who wanted to put in time shares. We both knew each other's intention because of required submissions to the court in advance.
Our approach worked. The Cohens (told me later) thought we'd go on forever and so dropped out and we became the successful bidders at a less-than-expected price. Then the fun began. My goodness did we write a lot of checks. We were perpetually broke, stacks of payables, and few receivables. The receivables we had were hard to collect. Crunch time was a daily occurrence!
We had good instincts, though, which ultimately gave rise to building a business. We were just humble enough to treat every twist and turn as a learning experience and by year five broke even. Year six saw us profitable, which thankfully we have been ever since.
Along the way we developed strong relationships with the city of Newport, our immediate neighbors in the Point section, local authorities and, most importantly, our customers. We were forging ahead with a 'can do' attitude that was more unique then than it is now in our business. We opened our gates for public access, and coached security to be accommodating (remember, nobody has to go yachting!) We created amenities, never let trash hit the ground, and increasingly made the facility so appealing that there was no reason to leave the “Shipyard” for a “marina” when the boss arrived.
Race teams started to train with us, major events happened like the run-up to the America's Cup where we had the actual Cup delivered in a Brinks truck. We became the "it" spot. PUMA trained with us twice for the Volvo Ocean Race, once for 15 months. Flattering articles began to appear about who we were, our culture, one headline depicting us as "the Yard that saved Newport." Not sure that's true, but we weren't about to argue!
As I write this, I realize there's more to say, other chapters need to be written. Our tenants have helped us enormously in services, networking back and forth with their customers and ours, and the rent they pay us which comes at the beginning of the month when we need it most! There's a chapter too on the history of Newport Shipyard before us, going back to 1834. There were four bankruptcies that left the place derelict without a single yacht when we took over. What happened to cause these ups and downs - how much might have been the outside world, Newport, demand, and how much might have been how it was run is hard to tell.
Going forward is another chapter, the most important of all. We've worked hard on that part. In our family, the next generation is not only good, but I learn from them every day. Eli Dana is our general manager. The Shipyard team is far better and has more depth than I ever dreamt possible. We also all get along well, and in reality, I feel as much responsibility to our employees as I do to my own family. Newport Shipyard will continue to do its job in an innovative way, never forgetting we are nothing without the amazing yachts that grace our docks and work areas. It will all come together at Belle's, allowing for camaraderie among onsite businesses, boat owners, crews, and employees.