This week, I had the chance to meet with Gerardo Martinez, the service manager at the Duffy Electric Boat Company, located at 2439 West Coast Highway. Gerardo has been an employee of Duffy boats for 16 years.
When I walked in and introduced myself, I was warmly greeted, and when I asked Gerardo if he had time for an interview, a rather large smile appeared on his face, and he asked, "Why me?" I told him I had been asking around town, "Who was the Duffy guy to go to and help maintain your electric boat?" Everyone, without hesitation, would say "Gerardo." He agreed to the interview, and we double-checked with corporate to make sure everything would be OK.
Back in 1997, Gerardo started from the bottom of the boats, applying bottom paint, working for the dock crew and doing service runs. By 1999, he started in the service department, then moved over to service manager in the Huntington Harbour office in 2004. A couple of years later, he spent some time at the plant building boats and then was offered the job of service manager here in Newport Beach. "At that time, we had about 130 clients who had signed up for the Duffy Care service," he explained. "Now we have 850 clients from Long Beach to Newport, and with new boat sales, we have over 1,200 customers a year."
As service manager, he runs a crew of 28 people. Duffy Care consists of "making our customers happy with our product," Gerardo told me. This crew does everything for the Duffy owners who have signed up for Duffy Care, from monthly bottom-cleaning to top-to-bottom wash-down service and maintenance inspections.
"I make sure the crews get down to the boats and bring boats in that are due for bottom paint, carpet steam-cleaning or replacement of packing glands," he explained. The crews check on battery water level and make sure bilge pumps are working.
I, for one, can easily spot the boats that are in Duffy Care; they glow as you approach them.
"We have three brand new boats in the harbor to help service clients in a professional manner," Gerardo said.
While in the service office, I had a chance to meet accounting head Janet Brisky and manager Toni Olague. Gerardo told me that one of the most difficult things about his job was his clients trying to pronounce his name correctly. It seems to be a running joke in the office, and Janet has been keeping count of the different names used when inquiring for Gerardo. "We have a list of 28 names — would you like to hear some of them?" Janet asked. "We have Rodrigo, Ricardo, Gordo, Eldorado, Dorito and Guerrilla." The group laughed like a family at the dinner table as Janet kept reading down the list, and I was laughing too hard to remember all 28 names.
One thing is for sure: Gerardo is not going to forget his customers' names or their boats. He explained, "I might forget what to pick up at the store before I come home, but I have always been able to remember my customers and their boats."
When I left, I had that feeling like I was part of the family and that they would drop what they are doing to help a friend out. If you have a Duffy, give them a call and just say hello and become part of the family. Sea ya.
LEN BOSE is an experienced boater, yacht broker and boating columnist.