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Nisswa Marine sells family fun

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Brent Wiczek has an easy answer when asked why he enjoys his job at Nisswa Marine.

“Not only do I get to work with my family every day but we are selling family fun to our customers,” said Wiczek, the business’ general manager. “Boating has a positive impact on families and there is nothing better than serving our customers’ boating needs in the lakes area.

Steve Wiczek, Brent’s father and president of Nisswa Marine, bought the business in 1998. But the business started long before that.

Walt and Roy Leonard established the original site off Highway 371 on Nisswa Lake in the 1930s. The Dullum family bought the operation from Ray Madison in 1966, calling it Martin’s Marine and specializing in Johnson outboard motors. The business got the name Nisswa Marine in the 1960s. Lee Anderson bought the business from the Dullums in 1985.

One winter day in 1998, Steve and son Brent ventured on a Sunday drive from their hometown of Little Falls to the Brainerd lakes area. That drive took them to Nisswa, when they discovered Nisswa Marine. Steve purchased the business with the thought of operating a service and storage business.

“Once we got up here we discovered how great of an area it was with all the lakes, and we decided to build a new store on Highway 371,” Brent said of the building they opened on Smiley Road in the spring of 1999, after operating for one season from the original site.

The family, which moved to Nisswa after buying Nisswa Marine, had been in the marine industry, working with other dealers and manufacturers from Little Falls, Brent said.

“My brother and I have always worked for my dad in family entrepreneurship,” he said. “Our family’s always had a passion for the marine industry and customer service, which led us to go into the boat business.”

Brent was 20 when his father bought Nisswa Marine, and he started as the business’ parts and service manager. His brother, Jeremy, worked at the store while in high school cleaning boats and is now sales manager.

Nisswa Marine focuses on sales, service and storage, selling runabouts, ski boats and fishing boats, and dock and lifts. Nisswa Marine product offerings are constantly evolving with new models and products introduced each year.

“The pontoon business has been on fire the last three or five years; they just keep getting bigger with more horsepower,” Brent said.

Each fall, the business winterizes more than 1,100 boats and offers a same-day service to give customers a quick turnaround time. It stores more than 650 boats and pontoons under cover for the winter months. When Steve bought the business, it was storing 300 boats.

“A huge part is service and storage,” Brent said, noting while that while sales declined during the recession, “service and storage has never really missed a beat.”

Brent’s wife, Heather, also works at Nisswa Marine. His mother, Donna Wiczek, and sister, Kasey Wiczek, run Falls Flag Source and Nisswa Signs, a flag and flagpole, as well as a sign business, next door to Nisswa Marine.

Nisswa Marine has 15 employees — 10 full time and five seasonal. Those employees include Greg Peterson, who has been with the business for 47 years, and Dan Derfler, who has 32 years with Nisswa Marine. Both are technicians.

The biggest challenge is having five months to do 12 months worth of business, and the biggest change in the way they do business is using the Internet, Brent said.

“We spend a lot more time taking multiple pictures of products and putting them online. People are shopping at 10 o’clock at night,” he said of the Internet.

Brent cited customer service as a key to the business’ longevity, and reiterated the love of working with a great clientele.

“We’re selling fun,” he said.