PARK BOAT COMPANY POWERSPORTS
IN WASHINGTON, NC
The roots of what is now Park Boat Company Powersports in Washington, NC can be traced back to modest beginnings in the late 1940s on Runyan Creek in Washington Park. A small business was established at the foot of the Runyan Creek Bridge, which was dedicated solely to outboard engine repair. While the footprint of this business was small, it was convenient to access by land and it offered the all-important access to Runyan Creek, the Pamlico River and beyond.
In 1952, Park Boat Company was founded when Dennis Smithwick (the current owners, Terry and Larry Smithwicks’ father and Austin Smithwick’s grandfather) and Mr. Smithwick’s brother-in-law, Clarence Toler, bought the above mentioned business. In the early years, Mr. Smithwick, who had a full-time job, worked at Park Boat Company on Saturdays, Sundays and other spare time. The fledgling business continued as an outboard repair shop but soon added the Evinrude Outboard franchise. It was likely obvious to everyone what the next logical step would be.
WHEN THE “BOAT” WAS PUT IN PARK BOAT COMPANY
It became obvious that the “next logical step” would be to work with boat builders and sell boats equipped with their newly acquired Evinrude outboard engines. Remember, that in the 1950s, fiberglass boats were being built in very limited numbers. But, several wooden boat builders were located in Eastern North Carolina that could supply the needed inventory. It is interesting that Mr. Smithwick and Toler reportedly worked closely with Glen Grady and Don White and another marine-industry mainstay from North Carolina that has done alright for itself, Grady-White Boats.
THE TRANSITION FROM WOOD TO FIBERGLASS BOATS
By the early 1960s, Oswald Smithwick, a cousin, was preparing to retire from the military and wished to return to the Washington area. After joining Park Boat Company, he helped manage both the operation and direction of the business. In a progressive-minded manner, he followed the evolution of the fiberglass boatbuilding process and worked to help Park Boat Company begin the transition from wood to fiberglass. Park Boat Company saw a number of good years selling these new fiberglass boats and Evinrude outboards until the late 1960s.
ALWAYS DARKEST BEFORE THE DAWN
The sudden loss of Oswald Smithwick to a heart attack in the late 1960s would test the very metal of Park Boat Company. In addition to the personal and emotional loss in the family, the loss of his hands-on management skills was devastating to the business. Despite a valiant effort by Dennis Smithwick and his wife, Thelma, the decision was made to sell the company.
MIGHTY OAKS FROM LITTLE ACORNS GROW!
In a twist of fate, while discussing the potential sale of the business with oldest son, Terry, the decision was made to sell the business to Terry; later, younger brother Larry would join him as co-owner. During these years, payroll for the owners was but a distant dream. But, Terry and Larry had a business plan and stuck with it. Their business plan was centered around the simplification of the boat buying process by offering complete boating “packages,” which also helped reduce the end cost to the consumer. On the backside, this package concept reinforced the “service” side of the sale, which included guidance with financing, insurance, accessories, etc. in addition to the mechanical service of the units themselves.
Obviously, this customer service oriented business plan instilled confidence and satisfaction in PBC’s customers, as the company really started to grow. Partnered heavily with Galaxy Boat Manufacturing Company in Columbia, SC and Chapparal Boats, Inc. in Nashville, GA, sales continued to grow through the 1970s. By the early/mid 1980s, it was obvious that Park Boat Company was beginning to need more room than the small western tip of Washington Park could offer.
In about 1985, a parcel of land was purchased just south of the Highway 17 Bridge in Washington. This property offered both room to expand and access to the Tar/Pamlico Rivers. New offices and an indoor showroom were constructed here that served the company for about 20 years. It was during the 1980s that the personal water craft (PWC) market exploded and PBC added these small craft to their stable of larger vessels. Additionally, the use of All Terrain Vehicles (ATVs) began to be used by riders of all ages, causing yet another line of sports equipment to be added. It was also during this time that the name of the company was amended to become Park Boat Company Powersports to reflect the recent expansions.
The expansions mentioned above prompted another move in about 2007 to US Highway 264, which is a major east/west highway in North Carolina. This location offers a 20,000 sq. ft. indoor showroom as well as much needed space for service, parts, rigging, outside sales and outside storage. While the PBC tried and proven business model remained unchanged, other facets of the business changed significantly. The “third generation,” Terry Smithwick’s son and co-owner, Austin Smithwick, assumed the reins and runs the day to day operations still today. Product lines include Grady-White, Chapparal, Hurricane, Pioneer, Sportsman, Manitou, Carolina Skiff, Sea-Doo PWCs, Honda ATVs, and Yamaha Outboards, to name a few.
In addition to Park Boat Company Powersports in Washington, NC, you can also now find them at Manteo Marine in Manteo, NC, which expanded PBC’s operation to the central Outer Banks of the North Carolina Coast. Having reached yet another milestone, Park Boat Company Powersports is extremely proud to have been named on the Top 100 Dealers in North America on two different occasions by the Boating Industry.
DO YOU HAVE BOAT FEVER?
From time to time, PBC runs a local TV commercial in which co-owner, Terry Smithwick, plays a doctor examining Vic Williams, the PBC Boat Sales Manager (and an old fire department buddy of mine), only to find out that he has “Boat Fever!” In the commercial, Vic feels much better after a trip to Park Boat Company. If you have “Boat Fever,” are just looking to have some “Fun on the Pamlico” or some ATV fun in eastern NC, Park Boat Company Powersports in Washington, NC is a great place to start.