[Editor’s note: This is Part-Two of the Greene Boat and Motor story. To read Part-One, click here]
In Part One of this series we talked about the beginning of Greene Boat and Motor in the ’20s, the two moves to Main Street, Spindale and the building of a business that has since spanned three generations. In Part two we’ll look at the final move to the current facility, a famous pointing duck, a family tragedy and the resurrection of the business.
As the years went on the business got so big they had to move from the humble Main Street address to another property. This time they moved to a 22-acre piece of land and built the current shop – all to Hubert’s specific design requirements.
“When Hubert came home from work he’d pull out his paper and pencil and draw his dream boat shop,” Rose said. “He designed everything about the shop we’ve been in since 1986. He wanted the office area to be the center with wings that extended out from the office area for boat display, service and rigging. He didn’t want to have to walk very far to get to his customers.
“The building was also designed so people could see the boats inside even if we were closed,” she added. “Customers could drive around the building and see the boats through the windows. One time we had a customer call who had been by the shop when we were closed. It was the wife who had called and she was trying to describe to me which boat it was they were interested in. She finally said, ‘Just go around the building until you get to the window that’s covered in slobber.’”
Once the new building was finished in 1986, their sales went even higher.
“From the mid-‘80s through a better part of the ‘90s we were selling 600 Rangers a year,” Andy said. “I remember mom coming home from work one Saturday and I asked her how the day was. She said, ‘Oh, it was kind of slow. We only sold five boats today.’ You know what I’d give to sell five boats any day in this economy?”
About the same time the U.S. bass fishing community would start to realize the sport wasn’t only popular in the States, it was gaining ground in other nations as well. Greene’s would become one of the heavy-hitters in the overseas bass boat market – namely Japan.
“In the mid-‘80s the Japanese started coming over to the U.S. to fish the B.A.S.S. events and because we were advertising in Bassmaster, they started buying boats from us. This was way before the internet so we had no idea what was going on.
“At any time during those years we would have 10 boats ready to ship to Japan. In fact we became kind of popular in Japan, so much so that they sent an outdoor writer over to do a story on the dealership. We had Guy Eaker show up wearing his jumpsuit and the writer thought he was a superstar.”
Fishing, and a Duck Called Fudgy
It seems a lot of good businesses have a mascot and Greene’s was no different. The only thing different was their mascot was in the form of a mallard duck. A talented mallard at that.
“Prior to the dealership getting as big as it became, we owned and operated the marina at Lake Lure for a lot of years,” Rose said. “One day, all by himself, this little duckling rolls into the marina. He was a late arrival and his mom had left the nest early. We took him home, made a duck house for him and named him Fudgy.
“I had no idea how long a duck would live so I called someone who was supposed to be an expert in ducks to find out. The guy said, ‘Ma’am, most of them don’t live past duck season.’
“We started taking him fishing with us and one day he pointed to a bass – he could see underwater. I mean he’d point like a dog pointing at a bird.
“So Hubert saw him on point and threw in and caught a 4-pound bass. Hubert said, ‘Look at that. That’s some kind of intelligence and just laughed.
“Charles Salter (a writer during those days) got wind of this and wrote about Fudgy in Bassmaster Magazine. From that article we were invited to go to the Omni Theater in Georgia.
“So here’s Hubert and I on the front stage with Fudgy and we’re telling the crowd about him. As we’re talking, a man stood up and said, ‘A duck that can point fish? Let’s see,’ and he threw a bag full of goldfish towards the stage. Fudgy got up, walked over to the edge and pointed his neck so far I thought his bill was going to touch the floor. Then I said to the audience, ‘Ladies and gentlemen, the duck’s on point.’
“After that Sports Illustrated did two articles on Fudgy, Fudgy was on the show Real People and Phil Harvey did a piece on his radio show about him. Phil Harvey said in his way of speaking, ‘These people in north Carolina have a duck that points bass. All that the owner has to do is catch them. I met them at a boat show in Charlotte and they were offered $4000 for the duck. They still have him.’”
“He really helped out business,” Andy said. “He was more famous than any of us will ever be. In fact a couple years ago I was up at the Tracker dealer meeting and Johnny Morris was there with his wife. Johnny walked up to me and said, ‘Andy, this is my wife. Would you tell her about the duck?’ He didn’t ask about my family, my mom or the business – all he wanted was for me to talk about the duck.”
Selling boats was the Greenes’ business but fishing was and still remains their passion.
“My dad would work Monday through Saturday and then fish on Sunday,” Andy said. “Back when we owned the marina on Lure Lake he caught an 8-pound smallmouth and a 14-pound largemouth on the same day. That’s a funny story.
“He was fishing when one of his customers, Jake Wilson, came up and asked if he was catching anything. Dad said he was so Jake asked if he could see what he was fishing with.
Dad said, ‘pull over here and watch me.’ He was fishing with a Mann’s Wooly Bully spinnerbait. Dad cast the bait behind Jake’s boat and let it sink. As soon as it hit the bottom he started reeling it back slow and the 14-02 ate it. To add insult to injury Dad didn’t have a net in the boat so he had to borrow Jake’s. Jake just died a few months ago but if he were here he’d tell you the story still bothers him to this day.
Some of Andy’s fondest memories were created in the boat with his father – from tournament competition to catching his biggest bass.
“As a kid I used to fish with him every Sunday – that’s what we did. We sold boats and fished. I thought that was the way life was.
“Being a dealer we always had the newest boats available to fish out of,” Andy said. “But more times than not we used an old 1973 TR-series boat to fish from – ‘the little green boat.’ It would allow us to get into places the big boats couldn’t get in to. My dad even took that boat to the 25th Anniversary Bassmaster event on Beaver lake in the 1990s. I still have that boat and some others.
“We fished a lot of Jerry Rhyne’s tournaments and some of the other circuits. My dad liked the South Carolina lakes a lot and I didn’t even know we had lakes in North Carolina until I was a teenager. We mainly fished Hartwell but would also go to Keowee, Murray, Clarks Hill, and Russell.
“When I was seven or eight years old I caught a 10-02 on a jig at Hartwell and Tom Mann sent me a jacket that says Humminbird Field Staff Youngest Angler on it. I still have that jacket.
“I also caught a 10-05 with Dad and an 11-02 that I caught when I was 14 or 15. The 11-02 I caught fishing between the legs of a cow on a spinnerbait. To this day I’d rather flip cow legs than docks (laughs).”
It always seems that when things are running smoothly, someone or something throws a wrench into the machine. This was the case with Greenes.
“There was a lot of tragedy in a short period of time,” Andy said. “My mom got breast cancer and bone cancer in the ‘90s, my brother passed away, my wife lost two relatives and then my dad contracted cancer.
“My mom lost interest in the company after my brother died, I went off to college and of course by that time Sandi had started her business, Angler’s Choice, in Martinsville. This shop was closed for four years. We still stored a lot of customers’ boats and I did some boat work for extra cash but for the most part we closed the doors in early 2004.”
The Greenes not only lost family members during that time, the boating industry was changing and because of that, they lost a lot of their client base.
“Ranger was sold and bought by Genmar,” Rose said. “They changed the way we could market and also put in place regions in which we could sell. Back in the day we could draw customers from six or more states and when the economy got tight, we could still make it. After they implemented sales regions, it was difficult.
“It’s tough to make it when you have that happen along with all the deaths in the family.”
The Greene DNA
In 2007 Andy Greene graduated with his Master’s Degree in Divinity. A normal path would have been to go into the ministry full time but there’s something about the Greene DNA that swayed that decision.
“It really hurt to drive past the shop every day,” Andy said. “It was my family’s legacy for so many years and I didn’t want to see it vanish. I couldn’t say it’s what I wanted to do for the rest of my life but I did want to be able to say I had something to do with it.
“Then around September of 2007 I went up to Martinsville to visit with Sandi and her husband. The subject of reopening the store came up. They said they’d help me.
“It’s all I’d ever known growing up. The shop was all I ever saw Mom and Dad do – selling boats from the time before I was born until they closed the doors. I love the industry – it’s a part of me, my makeup.”
He jumped at the chance to get back in the business and reopen the shop he’d grown up in – the shop that held his family’s legacy.
“It all happened so fast,” he said. “By February 2008 we were open again.”
To open a business in 2008 was a crap shoot at best. The economy was tanking and people didn’t have the expendable income available just a few years earlier for luxury items such as boats. But that didn’t deter the Greenes from restarting the business.
“It wasn’t very good timing,” Andy said. “We didn’t know what was going to happen to the economy. We knew things were getting a little shaky but never imagined things were going to get as bad as they did. So we reopened and things tanked. It was tough, it’s still tough.
“When we came back I think a lot of people were happy and others were wondering if it was really going to happen. At that time the mega dealers were going away and everyone went into survival mode – the playing field got leveled. We lost a lot of dealerships and you had to become smart at the business end. Thankfully our property and buildings are paid for so we didn’t have as much overhead as others do.”
Now that it was decided to reopen, the Greenes needed to figure out what brands to sell and who to contact in the industry.
“We didn’t contact many people at all,” Andy said. “When we’d closed doors, we were selling Bass Cat and had a great relationship with Rick Pierce. In fact, the entire time we were closed I was still running a Cat and talking to Rick all the time. Rick knew everything that was going on with my family. That didn’t happen with any of the other companies. When I called Rick and told him we were reopening, he said, ‘We’re in.’
“We also contacted Stratos and they got on board along with Avalon Pontoons. After a while, as the economy got worse, we obtained Tracker Marine. Their name recognition around here is huge and they’ve become a good fit.”
I asked Rose what she thought of Andy reopening the shop to continue on with his family’s legacy.
“I’m proud of him,” she said. “He’s doing a good job. I still have this industry in my blood. I love fishing and I love the fishermen. We’d always planned on Andy taking over the business – we just got started a little late. But he held on to the dream and I’m so proud of him.”
Greene Boat and Motor has been back in business now for over six years and going strong. Bass fishing and bass boats are in their genes and will always be a part of their heritage. Andy, like his father, still fished local tournaments in order to keep tabs on the anglers and the industry. It’s all he’s ever known.
If you’re ever in the area of Spindale, NC I’d highly suggest a trip by the shop – not just if you’re in the market for a boat but more so to see a big piece of American bass fishing history. The memorabilia inside and outside the shop will take you back to the good old days as well as reflect what the newest technology is today. Trust me, you won’t be disappointed.
To see a complete photo gallery of Greene’s Boat and Motor, click here.