Story updated 3/10/21
By Susan Elise Campbell
The owner of Boats by George has screapped plans to convert the Lake George Forum ice rink and event center into a 50,000-square-foot showroom.
George Pensel cited escalating construction costs. Eestimates came in more than double the $800,000 thathe planned to spend to turn the arena into a headquarters and showroom.
Pensel was under contract to buy the forum from 2200 Route 9 LLC and Ralph Macchio Sr., owner of Wild West Ranch and Western Town.
Pensel said at the time he would keep the 8,000-square-foot flagship facility at 18 Route 149 in Lake George.
Pensel has owned the business for nearly four decades and his two sons are active partners in the company. He said he had needed a larger showroom for some time, as new boat sales have increased year to year along with the company’s market share.
“Boating has allowed people to get out in the fresh air, social distance, and enjoy the outdoors,” said Pensel. “Manufacturers have had trouble keeping up with the demand for boats. The marine industry has had a big expansion this year.”
“Our inventories at the beginning of January were depleted, compared to the same time in 2020,” he said. “Typically we would have 30 boats to start the 2021 model year, but this January there were a lot fewer.”
“In 2020, we began selling pontoon boats with the Barletta brand, which represented $1 million in revenue,” he said. “This is a high-growth segment nationally and there is hidden potential in both pontoon boats and tow boats.”
Boats By George stocks Cobalt and Chris-Craft, brands that are fiberglass and stern-driven and Malibu Axis tow boats with inboard motors for water sports. But he is also looking for a smaller outboard to round out the product offerings.
The company’s market reach is wide, making Boats by George a regional dealer and market leader, Pensel said. They are drawing from points in Vermont, Lake Champlain and Lake Placid and are continuing to grow into other markets.
“One thing about this business is that it takes a lot of real estate to operate it,” he said. “This is not a business that could have started out normally this way, but had to grow over time into a destination for our products and services.”