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An Interview With Frank Bongiorno: CEO and Founder of Staten Island Yacht Sales

SI Yachts is the Northeast’s most powerful yacht brokerage firm and new yacht dealer. We sell the most reputable, top new yacht brands in the industry for boaters who like to cruise, fish, or travel on the water. We also have Staten Island Marina which is one of the most state-of-the-art marinas on the eastern seaboard that also has a full-service department.

1.How long have you been doing business in town and how long has your organization been around in the community?

Staten Island Yacht Sales began as Staten Island Boat Sales in 1964. My father, Phillip Bongiorno, and I were selling Owners and Ulrichsen boats for the Schatz Brothers in Brooklyn. When the Verrazano Bridge was being built, we decided to buy a trailer and some land in Great Kills and set up our boat dealership. Today, that same piece of land is the site of our headquarters for SI Yachts as well as Staten Island Marina. We have since expanded our presence in New York by adding a location in Freeport on Woodcleft Canal as well as a seasonal location at the Montauk Yacht Club.

2. What attracted you to the line of work you’re in, and how did you get started?

Boating is truly one of the greatest pastimes in the world. What else can you do for an entire day outside, never get bored of it, and make the greatest memories with your family and your friends? It’s an easy industry to be attracted to because of that. You’re helping people create a lifestyle that will impact their lives and their kids lives for many years. My father and I had great success when we first started selling boats in Brooklyn which really just happened by accident. We didn’t think we could make a living at it, but here we are today as one of the most successful mid-sized yacht dealerships in the country.

3. If you had to sum up your business mission to a stranger in five words, what would those words be?

Helping People Create Lifelong Memories.

4. What’s the biggest challenge or most difficult moment you’ve faced in your job?

Managing the business through the recession in 2008 was probably the most difficult. More than 60% of the boating industry disappeared between 2008 and 2011. A lot of dealerships went under or shrunk considerably in size. We made the decision that we were not going to lay people off no matter how tough it got. We made an investment in our employees, many of which had been a part of our team for years. That investment paid off as now we have a team of the most experienced service teams in the industry. Where a lot dealerships had to re-hire and re-train, we never lost a step.

5. What’s the most satisfying part of your job?

The most satisfying part of my job is watching a deal come together between one of our customers and one of our sales professionals. A lot of what we do is match-making. We have to really find out what the customer needs, how they plan to use their boat, what the right boat is for their skill set, and what their budget can afford. Then our sales team goes out and scours the market to find the right fit. We put a lot of effort into making sure we recommend the right boat to the customer. We have many customers that have been with us for their entire boating life, through 5, 6, even 10 boats or more. If we just put them into a boat to make money, their not going to come back and be lifelong customers. So when it finally does come together, everyone is excited. Seeing the joy on everyone’s faces and hearing the stories of how they had fun on the boat is the most satisfying experience.

6. How would you say your business distinguishes itself from the others?

Our new yacht brands are the best in the industry, so right there that distinguishes us from the rest of the dealers in the Northeast. We are one of the oldest Viking Yachts dealers in the world and are not far at all from their factory. This allows our clients to have a great relationship with Viking should they decide to build a boat. Cruising brands like Princess, Prestige, and Absolute among the most well-respected. Our newest brand, HCB, builds the world’s largest luxury center-console yacht. You can’t find a collection of new, available yachts like that anywhere in the Northeast.

Additionally, when you buy a boat from SI Yachts you get one of the best service teams in the country to handle all your warranty work, routine maintenance or add whatever upgrades or changes you might decide to do. We have even gone as far as having our boat captains drive our client’s boat down south for the Winter or send our service techs to the Bahamas to change out a part. Overall, our commitment to our clients and their enjoyment on their boat I believe is what sets us apart from others.

7. What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given when it comes to success?

Focus on the things you know you can control. The world around us may change on a daily basis which can make business better or worse. If we focus on the things we know we can control, like taking care of our customers, the rest will fall into place eventually. We try and treat our clients like we treat our family and when it comes time to sell their yacht or buy a new one, there is no question in their mind who they’re going to come to for help.

8. Are there any new projects or endeavors you’re working on that you’re excited about?

We recently launched a new website and are investing a lot of time and money into making it the best in the industry. It includes an online chat answering service so not matter what time of day it is, you can get an answer to your question or at least leave us your information so we can get back to you with one. Our customers who list their yachts for sale with us appreciate the investments we have made on the marketing front.

We also have several new models that are making their debut this year and we have some of the first vessels that will be available in the U.S. Viking has a new 38 Billfish which is a great owner/operator boat. It’s got all the fishing amenities you need on board for a great day in the water with many of the comforts of a sportfish. That will be here this Summer. Additionally, the new Absolute 48 Navetta will be arriving in the Spring and is a great cruising yacht, really fuel efficient, and very well-priced. The new Navetta will be a hit. Prestige Yachts recently launched the new 590 Flybridge at the last major boat show and we are excited to have that boat available in Staten Island this Spring.

9. Do you have any events coming up in your community?

The big boating event in New York, in the dead of winter, is the New York Boat Show takes place from January 23rd through the 27th inside the Javits Center. It’s a fun even to bring the whole family and spend the day inside looking at all the boats and accessories. This year our team will have 3 new models at the show including the Prestige 460 Flybridge, the HCB 42 Siesta with 425HP outboard engines, and the HCB 39 Speciale luxury center-console.

10. How can the general public learn more about your business?

I would invite anyone in the area to come down to the New York Boat Show in January. It’s a great event and you can climb on board some of the hottest boats out right now. The next big event is the Miami Yacht Show in mid-February. The Miami Show is one of the biggest in the world and features many of the latest models. We are excited to be at that show with the new Viking 58 Convertible which will also be in Staten Island this Summer. And as always, we are open 24/7 on or at any of our locations. Our team is always approachable and very welcoming, especially to new boaters who may need a little more guidance.

Garrett Parker

Written by Garrett Parker

Garrett by trade is a personal finance freelance writer and journalist. With over 10 years experience he's covered businesses, CEOs, and investments. However he does like to take on other topics involving some of his personal interests like automobiles, future technologies, and anything else that could change the world.

Read more posts by Garrett Parker

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