New ways to set sail
Plus: BofA CEO answers questions on bank's abortion views; Waxhaw house hits market at $5.6M; Communications firm CEO plans expansion; Dashew explains superintendent firing; UNC star in 'Outer Banks'
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The ‘Airbnb of boats’ app and boat clubs take off on Lake Norman and Lake Wylie; ‘People always come back to docks with smiles on their faces’
“Captain Mark” Crall (shown here with boat rental clients on Lake Norman) decided to make some money off his boat during the pandemic, and he now rents it out to the public on the app GetMyBoat and through his own charter company, Lake Life Charters. (Courtesy of Mark Crall)
by Michael J. Solender
There’s an old boating joke that every captain who’s ever set sail has heard countless times: What are the two most cherished days in the life of a boat owner? The day they buy their boat and the day they sell it.
While the appeal of boat ownership for some can fade over time, there’s no questioning the allure of a glorious day out on the water with family and friends.
Turns out, there are several new ways to enjoy boating on Charlotte-area lakes without ever owning a boat. A soaring demand for outdoor recreational activities throughout Covid has fueled an expansive market for daily boat rentals and on-the-water experiences.
With more side-hustling boat owners renting to offset their own boating costs, membership clubs that make DIY boating turn-key, and online boating marketplaces boasting 24/7 bookings, floating on a pontoon with a cold beverage in hand or wake-surfing behind the boat of your dreams is as easy as getting wet while playing Marco Polo.
There’s an app for that: Mark Crall is a Charlotte-area boat owner who made the pandemic pivot to charter boat captain out of necessity. A little more than two years ago as Covid lockdowns began to pinch the economy, Crall saw his wife get laid off from her job at a dental practice, his two children lose their after-school hospitality jobs, and his own corporate sales position begin to yield lower returns.
“I was faced with either selling the boat or putting it to work,” said Crall, 53.
He turned to GetMyBoat, an online boat rental and experience marketplace, to help monetize his boat. The company, founded in 2013, is often referred to as the “Airbnb of boat rentals” and began listing in Charlotte in 2017. A recent search of two popular Charlotte-area lakes on their platform returned nearly 100 listings at Lake Norman and 20 boat rentals at Lake Wylie.
“Charlotte is a strong market for us,” says GetMyBoat marketing manager Val Streif. In 2021, GetMyBoat saw a 369% increase in bookings in the Charlotte market, Streif said, “which is huge because that was on top of 2020, a year with very strong pandemic-related demand.”
Crall, aka “Captain Mark,” established Lake Life Charters LLC and after completing GetMyBoat’s onboarding process, began listing his premium wake-surfing powerboat through their platform. Though he has a website where clients can book direct and relationships with Lake Norman-area B&Bs, more than 80% of his bookings (up to 4 outings per weekend) come through GetMyBoat.
“My motive for getting into boating for hire initially was to keep out of debt,” Crall said. “Today, I’m debt-free and love delivering the lake life experience for people who’ve never really known the fun part of getting out on the water. Not simply cruising around, but discovering a locals-only rope swing cove, learning how to wake surf, seeing some of the spectacular celebrity homes from the water, or slow cruising through Lake Norman State Park.”
Streif noted that boat offerings on GetMyBoat vary by market but typically include a variety of powerboats, pontoons, sail boats and cruisers. Personal watercraft — think Jet Skis, kayaks and canoes — are occasionally available. Boat seekers use an app or direct search online and filter by location, boat type, length of rental, group size, dates and price. Most of the rentals offered are captained, making the experience carefree for renters.
Streif said there is no charge for boat owners to list on their platform. GetMyBoat deducts an 8.5% fee at the time of booking, and the boat owner gets the rest. Owners are vetted by the company for licensing, compliance with local regulations and insurance. They complete an onboarding process including safety training and service commitments prior to listing. Like an Airbnb, owners and renters can review each other. The company has 24/7 customer service for renters and owners.
Pricing varies depending on type of boat, length of rental and group size, but can range from $150 - $400 per hour, including gas and crew. Crall said his boat rents for around $200 per hour (including crew and gas), but the price depends on the number of guests, the length of the rental and the type of outing.
Boat membership clubs: For those looking to get out on the water more frequently, boat membership clubs can offer unlimited access. One boat club with a large Charlotte footprint is Freedom Boat Club, the largest marine franchiser in the U.S. serving 48,000 members at 350 locations.
Club members get unlimited access to a diverse fleet of boats, reciprocity throughout their network of clubs, and personalized service and support like those found at golf and country clubs. Members pay a one-time entry fee and ongoing monthly dues.
Freedom Boat Club of Lake Norman and Lake Wylie is one of the company’s top franchisees and has a presence across five locations in our area including Lake Norman marinas in Mooresville, Davidson, Cornelius and Denver and at Lake Wylie’s Pier 49.
“Charlotte is a tier-one market for us,” says Freedom Boat Club president Cecil Cohn. The company’s analytics show a strong boating culture here due to the number of new boat sales, the amount people spend on rentals, and the number of boat registrations, Cohn said.
“The outdoor boat club model is a great solution for those looking to get outside more for recreation and socializing,” Cohn said. “It’s a trend we’ve seen increase dramatically during the pandemic and with boat dealer inventories at historic lows, we know the demand is there.”
Fees vary by club but generally include one-time entry fees of around $5,000 to $7,000 with monthly dues at $300 to $500 depending on plan levels, according to Cohn. (The Charlotte market fees and dues are slightly lower, with one-time entry fees ranging between $3,000 and $5,000 depending on the access plan, with monthly fees between $350 and $450.) Full-week plans are the most popular, but some people opt for cheaper weekday-only plans in some markets, Cohn said.
Unlike captained boat rentals, membership clubs leave boat navigation to their members. Members are given a classroom orientation on navigation, sign recognition and safety, as well as on-the-water instruction, said Cohn. They spend anywhere from 2 to 4 hours on the water with local club operators, and ongoing training is available.
System wide, Freedom Boat Club has more than 4,000 boats in their fleet, with saltwater fishing boats, sport boats, bowriders, deck boats and pontoon boats being the most popular, Cohn said. Local clubs choose the makeup of their fleet based on what’s popular in their markets.
Jeff Weir, owner of Freedom Boat Club of Lake Norman and Lake Wylie, said in a recent podcast that his Charlotte-area fleet has 89 boats, about 60% of which are state-of-the-art pontoons and tritoons (three “toons”), which deliver higher lift capacity and offer a smoother ride.
Double-decker pontoons with slides are popular, he said, but the fleet also includes inboard and outboard runabouts, surf boats and center console fishing boats.
“It’s been great to be a part of a growing business as demand and standards for boat clubs has taken off,” said Weir. “Our goal for our 10-year anniversary next season is 100 boats and 1,000 members, and we’re well within range for both.”
For Crall, it’s all about bringing joy to his clients. Every trip is tailored to his clients’ interests, whether that’s heading out to the fabled Lake Norman sandbar, a wake surfing lesson, a sunset cruise or simply kicking back on the open water and enjoying the boat’s 2000-watt sound system. “People always come back to the docks with smiles on their faces. That’s very rewarding for me.”
➡️ Related: Check out this article from today’s Axios Charlotte with a list of six boat rental companies in the Charlotte area.
BofA’s Moynihan pressed on bank’s stance on abortion and political issues
Bank of America CEO Brian Moynihan, appearing on “CBS Mornings” this week, was peppered with questions about how and when the bank takes stances on social and political issues — including the hot-button issue of abortion rights, and whether the Charlotte-based bank plans to help its employees who seek abortions.
Here is some of the exchange:
Q. The Supreme Court is reportedly planning to overturn Roe v. Wade. There have been reports that major employers including Citigroup [are] going to cover travel expenses for women who want to get abortions in other states. Will Bank of America be doing the same?
With all things like this, we look at what our team needs from us. … When the case comes down, we have a group of teammates who will sit there with our HR teammates in a broader group. They’ll sit and say, “What do we need to do for our team?” So the positions we take on this and other matters, as a company, has to be over what our team needs. I could have a personal point of view, but that’s not what we do. We go into it and have a view of what the team wants. …
Q. You said a few years ago that the role of a CEO includes driving what you think is right. On this issue, before the Supreme Court, of access to an abortion as a constitutional right, do you think it is correct that women should have that access, or not?
Look, it’s the settled law of the land, and we believe that people should have that access. There’s going to be a lot of discussion about what this case says and means.
When we took a position on guns a few years ago, what happened is the team came to me and said, “Look, four of the nine victims in Charleston were related to teammates. Two of our teammates were in Las Vegas. Four people in the Pulse nightclub.” … They said, “We have to do something about the high impact of firearms” — it had nothing to do with the Second Amendment, nothing to do with the right to hunt. So we took that position because [of what] our team said.
We took the position about the so-called bathroom bill in North Carolina because our team wouldn’t come to meetings, because they said they didn’t feel safe.
Q. You’re known as a CEO that makes decisions that are beyond business decisions. If your employees and your customers take a stand, is that what guides your decision-making process on these issues?
We have a lot of people, a lot of stands. But the question is, “Can our people be effective? Can they serve our customers well?” Can they do these things? And that’s how we take it.
Looking for a little more space? 23,000 s.f. home hits the market in Waxhaw for $5.6M
It’s hard to know where to start when describing the 23,000 s.f. estate on pastoral Bonds Grove Church Road in Waxhaw that hit the market on Thursday for $5.6M. It’s got dumbwaiters, a massive library with intricate woodwork, a 15-seat movie theater with snack bar, locker rooms, indoor and outdoor pools. And a spare 4,000 s.f. house on the grounds, perfect for house staff or the in-laws.
“I don’t even know how to sum it up,” said listing agent Mike Abernethy with eXp Realty. “It’s just a one-of-a-kind estate.”
It’s a rare breed: Realtor.com lists only four other houses in the Charlotte region on the market for more than $5M. The priciest sale in the Charlotte region is believed to be $9.2M for a house on three acres in Eastover last year, according to the Charlotte Business Journal.
The Waxhaw house, built in the mid-1990s by the late Amway executive and local building contractor Don Storms, made headlines and was the talk of Waxhaw when it was constructed.
Local builders, Realtors and inspectors had lots to say back then for a Charlotte Observer article that ran in August 1995 titled “The talk of the county.” (Storms apparently refrained from commenting, except to tell the reporter to come back after the new year for a tour.) Here’s an excerpt:
“I think you’ve gone beyond mansion into some other category that hasn’t been defined,'' says Sidney Covington, who’s appraised homes in Mecklenburg County for more 30 years. “I can’t even comprehend it.”
Jan Konetchy, a real estate agent from Prudential Carolinas, agrees. “When the (guest) house went up, I thought, ‘Isn’t that a wonderful addition to the neighborhood,’” says Konetchy, who sells homes in Mecklenburg and Union counties.
“Then I saw the fence go up, and I thought, ‘Isn’t that wonderful?’ Then I saw the big house go up, and I said, ‘This is unbelievable.’”
Storms owned the home until 1999, according to MLS records. It was most recently owned by Cress Horne, who died in December 2020. Horne was an aerial director, pilot and technical coordinator for movies and he owned a company called U.S. Helicopters, which provided helicopter services for movies and TV news as well as aerial surveys.
The home’s future owners will probably want to give it some updating, as the three kitchens, eight bathrooms and wallpaper harken back to the late 1990s or early 2000s.
Any guesses on how long it’ll stay active in this hot market? — CB
New CEO plans to expand communications firm in Charlotte; industry becomes more digital, with workers all over the country
The marketing and PR industries are in the middle of a big change.
Companies have different expectations nowadays from their outside agencies — and the movement toward working from home, which accelerated during Covid, has meant that firms providing marketing help and other creative endeavors have a much broader potential employee base.
To discuss the changes in the industry, The Ledger spoke last week with Carrie McCament, who was named CEO of Chernoff Newman, one of the Carolinas’ largest marketing communications agencies, which was formerly known in Charlotte as Carolina PR. She joins Chernoff Newman from well-known Charlotte-based ad agency Wray Ward, where she was vice president and executive director of client engagement.
Chernoff Newman has about 40 employees at offices in Charlotte, Columbia, Charleston and Orlando, Fla., and clients include Charlotte-Douglas International Airport, Charlotte Water, Movement Mortgage and Deloitte.
McCament, 60, talked with The Ledger’s Tony Mecia about changes in the industry and Chernoff Newman’s expansion plans. Remarks were edited for brevity and clarity:
Q. How is this industry changing? What are the expectations clients have? What are some of the trends you are seeing?
The industry is becoming more digitally oriented, channel-agnostic, media-agnostic, much more online. I think that companies are looking at specialty shops versus full-service agencies because of that.
But the industry changed because of Covid. Period, end of story. What we learned is that you don't have to have one mammoth agency operating under one roof, with big capital expenses. But you can reach out and get things done virtually. And what that means is a little bit of splintering of the market: “You know, I'm going to go get my PR here. I’m going to get my digital here.” Not to say that’s the right way to do marketing, but that is what is happening.
They realize you don’t have to be in Manhattan. You don’t have to be in L.A. or San Francisco to get good talent now. In fact, I interviewed somebody from Google for a position at Wray Ward, and he was in Utah. And I said, “You know, why would you ever leave Utah? It’s just a beautiful state.” And he goes, “What makes you think I will ever leave Utah?” That’s just the mindset now.
Q. So creative people, you can get them from anywhere?
Exactly. Most of the creative who sit behind a screen say to agencies, “I’m not coming in.” But there’s a double-edged sword there. It’s good and bad. You always want to have that culture, chemistry, team camaraderie. You need that to sustain a company.
But the other end of that is you also can acquire really good talent. If they want to live in Toronto and they’re excellent copywriters, there’s no barrier. You Zoom them in.
Q. What are the plans for Chernoff Newman, especially here in Charlotte?
Chernoff Newman’s bread and butter is public relations and public affairs, and they have built their legacy over the last 50 years, mostly in South Carolina with state business, university business, government affairs, agriculture, health.
They know they need to move beyond the border lines and they also know that they need to reach out beyond government contracts and start to be more of a full-service, integrated, omni-channel agency. And they know they need to modernize.
They want to build on what they have already established, and they want the beachhead to be in Charlotte. We have a small office now in SouthPark. They’re looking for new real estate. They want me to be located there as the CEO and start to build out what they have in Columbia in Charlotte.
I do feel like I need to do some hiring to get to that point. I’ll look at a one-year plan, but I’m really looking at a three- to five-year plan: What does that trajectory look like, to become more than just PR and public affairs? I would not have taken the job had I not thought that that was attainable.
Former mayor eyed for White House job: President Biden is considering naming former Charlotte Mayor Anthony Foxx as the head of the White House Office of Public Engagement, according to unnamed sources cited by Axios. Foxx also served as Transportation Secretary under President Obama. (Axios)
Nick Kelly out at Charlotte FC: Tepper Sports and Entertainment CEO Nick Kelly is stepping down after three months on the job, according to statements posted by the Carolina Panthers and the Charlotte FC. Kelly’s previous role was as president of Charlotte FC, and he assumed the Tepper Sports and Entertainment CEO role after Tom Glick abruptly left in February after 3 1/2 years as president. (Biz Journal)
Coaching seminar: The Charlotte chapter of the International Coaching Federation is hosting a panel discussion May 17 called “Shifting from the Great Resignation to the Great Reinvention: How Coaching Shapes Employee Engagement” on May 17 at Olde Mecklenburg Brewery and on Zoom. Four panelists will discuss how coaching is influencing the resignation-reinvention spectrum. The in-person event starts at 4:30 p.m., with the panel running from 6-8 p.m. Register for the in-person event here, or register for the Zoom link here.
Parks ranking: The non-profit Trust for Public Land ranked Charlotte’s parks system 83rd out of 100 U.S. cities in its most recent annual report, moving Charlotte up eight places since last year. Parks were scored on five factors: equity, access, amenities, investment and acreage. A researcher said Charlotte moved up because of its greenways. But access to parks remains a problem, with 37% of residents living within a 10-minute walk to a park. (Axios Charlotte)
Cheslie Kryst’s final message: April Simpkins, the mother of the late Charlotte-area native and former Miss USA Cheslie Kryst, shared the crushing details of her daughter’s final text to her before she died by suicide in New York City in January. Simpkins appeared on an episode of Jada Pinkett Smith’s “Table Talk” show on Facebook Watch. “There are people who are high-functioning and can get through the day because they wear ‘the face,’ and we’re all taught to wear that face. Cheslie wore that face,” Simpkins said. (Observer)
Dashew explains superintendent firing: CMS board chair Elyse Dashew gave an interview to WFAE’s Ann Doss Helms, in which Dashew explained why the board fired Superintendent Earnest Winston. She said she and others selected Winston because of his integrity and passion and hoped he would grow into the job but that that didn’t happen: “I trusted and believed that he would develop those skills that were needed. And I think there were folks in the community who were watching us who weren’t trusting that. And they were right. I was wrong.” (WFAE)
No charges in shooting at DaBaby’s house: Police in Troutman say they will file no charges in connection with a shooting at the estate of rapper DaBaby. Police responded to a 911 call from DaBaby’s compound on April 13 and found a person who had been shot. However, DaBaby is due in court in June in Los Angeles to face a felony battery charge stemming from a December 2020 altercation at a rental home where the rapper was filming a music video. (WCNC)
West Charlotte townhomes: A developer is planning up to 116 townhomes and 12,000 s.f. of commercial space on a 7.4-acre parcel at 2600 W. Trade St., the site of a day care center and ball field. Developer Sere Ventures filed a rezoning petition this week.
Arrest the teachers, commissioner says: County commissioner Vilma Leake, speaking at a commissioners meeting last week about frustrations with Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools, said: “Every parent in this community ought to take out a warrant and have every educator arrested and put in jail for not seeing that their children are not given a quality education, college ready.” The quote appeared in a WFAE article this week on budget battles between CMS and the county.
⚽️ COMING LATER TODAY: Today’s issue of our weekly newsletter on Charlotte FC — Fútbol Friday — features the latest info on the team’s flurry of player acquisitions this week, a preview of tomorrow’s home match against Inter Miami and much more. If you’re not on the list, sign up on your ‘My Account’ page online.
Loves me some internet: John B. and ‘Mando’
From UNC Chapel Hill sports site Inside Carolina on Wednesday:
North Carolina star big man Armando Bacot will be featured in season three of the popular Netflix series “Outer Banks.” … Bacot told Inside Carolina on Wednesday that he is playing a character named ‘Mando’ and that he will appear in a few episodes. He couldn’t reveal many other details.
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Executive editor: Tony Mecia; Managing editor: Cristina Bolling; Contributing editor: Tim Whitmire, CXN Advisory; Contributing photographer/videographer: Kevin Young, The 5 and 2 Project