There have been many different plans for reviving Atlantic City’s fortunes, but one consistent idea has been to make more of the island city’s proximity to the water. This year, new tenants at the former Atlantic City Boatyard are launching two new businesses that will give that a go.
Derek Brown is running WaveRunner Rentals from a dock on the bay, while Jeff Jastrzembski has opened the All Marine Center of Atlantic City in the existing boatyard. The site owner – Ole Hansen & Co – had rented some personal watercraft and offered limited boatyard services at the boatyard previously, but Jastrzembski and Brown have big plans to build on the business.
“Next year it’s going to be like a little retreat,” said Jastrzembski, pointing in the direction of the floating dock and the row of new yellow Yamaha WaveRunners. “It’ll be full of palm trees.” Brown, who runs a similar rental business in the Bahamas, will drive the trees up from Florida, he said. Next season they will also have fishing boats for rent, alongside the crabbing boat that is already available. There is also a tiki boat that will be available to charter.
Jastrzembski, who has been building boats for a couple of decades, had been looking for a building from which he could assemble 36-foot boats for a while. “The building works for me,” he said, noting that although he previously hadn’t considered a boatyard with repairs and other services, he realized it would be a good thing to support the assembly business. He previously built Topaz yachts and Silverhawk boats and now plans to add assembly of Wesmac boats.
Jastrzembski was introduced to Brown earlier this year through friends who had heard Brown was trying to open a watercraft rental company in Brigantine. It didn’t take long for the pair to come up with a plan. “We put this together in two months,” said Brown, gesturing toward the yard. Brown, who also owns a demolition business, said he found Atlantic City officials helpful during the permitting process that he went through and he had no regrets about leaving his plans in Brigantine. Being closer to the casinos along the Boardwalk as well as in the marina district appealed to him, he said. At some point he might get a van to pick up potential customers from the casinos. For now, most of them make their own way over to the rental spot, which is just across from the Atlantic City High School on Albany Ave.
Ole Hansen, which also owns and operates the Downbeach Express bridge and OHS Sand & Gravel, had previously run the boatyard operation as an ancillary to its bus depot business on the site, but as bus traffic into Atlantic City declined, the family-run business began looking for other ways to recoup revenue. Leasing the boatyard and jet ski rental site to two dedicated operators would allow Ole Hansen to focus on its core businesses.
David Goddard, Chief Executive of Ole Hansen, told an Atlantic City zoning board earlier this year that the company had struggled to revive the bus parking business on the site as an urban RV park. Now it is building a drug and alcohol rehabilitation clinic in the former bus drivers’ lounge.