An international company in the maritime industry opened its doors in the Wrightsville Beach area this month.
St. Bart’s Yachts, a boat dealer and authorized agent for the international brand Beneteau, officially opened the doors of its 800-square-foot office space at 7232 Wrightsville Ave. on July 2, according to Peter Kurki, lead broker with St. Bart’s Yachts.
The work with St. Bart’s is in addition to Kurki’s work in the state maritime industry in the N.C. Maritime Economic Development Consortium
, a Wilmington-based nonprofit, now in its third year.
“The consortium has become a conduit for the industry growth in the state of North Carolina,” Kurki said about the organization, which has about 328 members with more than 100 of those in the Cape Fear region.
Currently, there are only four St. Bart's Yachts offices in the United States and “the company is in the growing mode,” Kurki said.
The Wrightsville Beach-area office is the second location of the yacht dealer in North Carolina, with headquarters in Charleston, South Carolina, and another location in Jacksonville, Florida. Its operation in Oriental, North Carolina, holds the company's sail division, while the new Wilmington location has its power division.
Bringing St. Bart’s Yachts to the Wilmington area with the Beneteau brand has been over a year in the making, Kurki said. “Beneteau is a significant player in the recreational maritime world,” he added.
“Beneteau is currently the largest manufacturer of recreational vessels in the world,” Kurki said about the dealer's product, adding that Beneteau has more than 100 factories throughout Europe manufacturing sailboats and powerboats.
With the opening of the new dealer location in Wilmington, Kurki said, the office adds another hub for the area’s maritime growth, and both the dealer and Beneteau brand is likely to bring customers from all across the state and Southeast region to Wilmington.
The average cost of the Beneteau brand is between $850,000 and $900,000, he said, which hits a certain market for boat sales.
“There's a market with pent-up demand for these vessels,” Kurki said, adding that the more the market grows, the more demand could be sparked for maritime services, dock space and additional means to support the industry locally.
Kurki said St. Bart’s Yachts anticipates participating in the annual Wilmington Boat Show, set to take place in September.
“The boat show is a significant economic engine for the region. Attendees for that show come from ... as far as South Florida [and] they come from the Northeast. I know some attendees last year came from New York. We have a lot of folks that come from the Triangle. So St Bart's will have a pretty significant position at the Wilmington Boat Show,” Kurki said.
Two to three vessels are expected to be brought in for the September show, with additional inventory to come to the area after, he said.
The boat dealer is also looking to hire an additional broker at the Wilmington office, and other hires could take shape as the office grows, Kurki said.
“A typical office of this size and in this region, you'd probably have five brokers,” Kurki said. “And so, where St Bart's may have three to five brokers in their office, they are now bringing work to the region, and other businesses -- other mechanical businesses [and] electrical -- all the services that support these vessels will all benefit from these new vessels coming into the marketplace.”
The firm’s pre-owned boats are currently at marinas and boatyards on the Cape Fear River, he said. The company is also looking into additional dock space for its new merchandise, both on the river and on the Intracoastal Waterway.