The Big Picture: Pier 57 Weathers the Storm

How does a dealership in the Tennessee countryside continue to sell pricey go-fast boats in a tough economy? Two words: David Woods.

7th March 2010.
By Matt Trulio

If you’ve ever been to Pickwick, Tenn., and didn’t stop to stretch your legs, you probably don’t remember the place. Pickwick is one of those “wide spots in the road,” though as pretty as Tennessee countryside can be. Pickwick Lake is idyllic and tranquil.

pier571

A 36 Marine Technology, Inc (MTI) catamaran in front of the Pier 57 facility.

Not the kind of place where you’d expect to find the top custom high-performance V-bottom and catamaran dealer in the country. Yet that’s exactly what Pier 57 Marine, which takes the “57” from a nearby rural highway, is. Pier 57 carries two lines—Cigarette Racing Team and Marine Technology.

“We’re off to one of our best starts ever,” said Randy Scism, the founder owner of MTI, which builds exotic go-fast cats. “Pier 57 handles all of our pleasure boat sales, so a lot of that has to do with David.”

Scism is referring to David Woods, the owner of Pier 57 and, to be honest, pretty much all of the town of Pickwick. In addition to Pier 57, Woods owns the local Chinese restaurant and the town’s gym, which he swears he’s “never been to.”

One look at Woods is all it takes to know he’s telling the truth. He’s about 5’6”—and I could be spotting him an inch or two—and carries the running back build he developed in high school, albeit a running back build informed by years of good living. Woods isn’t what you’d call fat, he’s just sort of, well, square.

And cuddly, huggable and charming in a way that is not uncommon to Southern gentlemen. (Trust me, friends, I do not in general call men cuddly and huggable.) Wood is instantly likeable and instantly familiar. But behind his easy charm and relaxed nature is a fire that’s taken him from rags to riches—he created an ultra-successful T-shirt business—and then some. Woods has made, and lost fortunes in real estate. He remade them in technology stocks.

woodsscism

David Woods (in yellow T-shirt) rides with MTI company owner and founder Randy Scism in a Hellraiser 44 MTI catamaran.

But the key to his success?

“David Woods works as hard as anyone I know,” says Skip Braver, owner and chief executive officer of Cigarette Racing Team. “He has the same strong work ethic and professionalism we do at Cigarette. Woodsy is by far one of our strongest dealers—and a very good friend.”

Woods’ go-fast boat hobby led him to open Pier 57 in 1993. The company was a Fountain powerboat dealership and service center at the time. That in turn led him to offshore racing with famed throttleman Art Lily, which introduced him to MTI catamarans. Woods eventually retired from offshore racing, but when he amicably parted ways with Fountain in 2005 he picked up the MTI line and, later, Cigarette. With both high-end custom catamarans and V-bottoms, the Pier 57 product line was complete.

Wood deflects credit for being a top Cigarette and MTI from his obvious charisma to the brands themselves and his customer base.

“The products speak for themselves—there’s really not much I have to say about them to ‘sell’ to buyers who are interested,” he says. “The other thing is, our buyers don’t come in looking for financing. The average price of these boats is a half-million dollars, so they generally have it in hand when they walk through the door. With Cigarettes an MTIs, I don’t think we’ve felt the crunch of some of the other brands. Skip builds a good boat. Randy builds a good boat.”

But Scism maintains that even his fine catamarans don’t sell themselves. It takes someone who is at ease in any situation, regardless of who sits across the table from him.

“We’re all just people,” says Woods.

“From the highest of high-end guys to regular people you could have a beer with, David has no trouble dealing with anyone—he covers the spectrum,” says Scism. “He’s down to earth and personable with everyone, and he’d just as soon walk down the docks in a T-shirt and shorts as a suit.

“But he can do both,” adds Scism.

trulioheadshot1Editor’s Note:Bi-weekly columnist Matt Trulio is the editor at large for Powerboat magazine. He has written for the magazine since 1994. Trulio’s daily blog can be found on speedonthewater.com, a site he created and maintains, which is the high-performance arm of the BoaterMouth group.


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About the author:

Matt Trulio

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Matt Trulio is the co-publisher and editor in chief of speedonthewater.com, a daily news site with a weekly newsletter and a new bi-monthly digital magazine that covers the high-performance powerboating world. The former editor-in-chief of Sportboat magazine and editor at large of Powerboat magazine, Trulio has covered the go-fast powerboat world since 1995. Since joining boats.com in 2000, he has written more than 200 features and blogs.
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