Float your boat

’Tis the season for having fun in the sun and getting out on the water. Near the shimmering waters of Lake Shelbyville stands a new business that opened last year about a half mile north of Sullivan Marina and Campground — 32 Marine, a full-service marine supply and services store on Coles-Moultrie Electric Cooperative lines.

“We just saw the need in the area,” says Matt Bates. “We were all born and raised here and lived here for 40 years. We were boating one day and were talking about [how] it’s kind of crazy that people come from all over the place to boat on Lake Shelbyville, and there’s no boat dealership in town.”

That realization inspired Matt, his brother and their families to meet that need. His brother and sister-in-law, Will and Tasha Bates, own the establishment, Matt is general manager, and his wife Tara also works for the business. Both couples’ children help as well.

The location was previously home to a roofing company, which moved to Mattoon. The Bates family repurposed the building to fit their needs for the new business venture. “As far as the planning and setup [went], it involved arranging agreements with different boat manufacturers and deciding what boat lines we were going to carry, setting up a service department, securing financing and stuff like that,” Matt says.

Matt Bates

When asked his favorite aspect of the business, “Probably the unpredictability of every day,” he says. “Every day is an adventure. You never quite know what you’re going to get.” Matt’s response to his least favorite aspect is delivered with a hint of irony. “My least favorite part would be, I guess, the unpredictability,” he laughs. “It’s definitely a double-edged sword.”

After only a year in business, Matt says the operation has a solid customer base, and that during boating season, their sales reps and service techs see thousands of customers. “The community has been supportive,” he explains. “And we hold a lot of certifications people value as far as the brands we service and that we’re certified to service.”

According to Matt, the business took off immediately. “It’s been busy from day one,” he says. “We’re going to continue to expand staff-wise, [with the] services we’re able to offer, and the volume we’re able to [handle].”

Among the boat lines for sale (and servicing) at the dealership are Moomba, Supra, Monterey, Xpress, Lowe and Veranda. A pro shop is also on the premises, stocked with an inventory including life jackets, wakeboards, fishing tackle and, of course, boat parts and cleaning supplies. 32 Marine is also a BOTE brand dealer and carries lake inflatables, kayaks and paddleboards.

“We’re here to serve central Illinois and Lake Shelbyville boating, and we can service pretty much anything,” says Matt.