Dot com keeps vessels in ship shape

If there’s one thing a boater can count on, it’s that things will break.

And there’s at least a strong possibility that wherever the boat is, the replacement part isn’t.

That situation, Hal Cook thought, was begging for a hi-tech solution. So he created Go2Marine, a Bainbridge-based on-line parts store that can get almost anything almost anywhere, and can go it overnight if you really need it.

“There is a huge need to get the right part fast for boats of 100 feet or less,” Cook said. “Supply stores in local markets will have some things, but we have a lot of additional stuff that people need.”

Because marine-supply stores have a finite inventory, and because most have finite hours of operation, Cook saw the marine-parts business as being a natural for on-line shopping.

“Customers are able to buy 24 hours a day, and don’t have to worry about store hours or when the catalog desk closes,” Cook said.

Located at the foot of Madison Avenue above a travel agency, Go2Marine has a dozen employees now, with plans to add a couple more in the future, Cook said.

The Bainbridge office is a nerve center and a software-development operation.

When all goes well, the actual shopping and shipping are all computerized.

The customer shops on-line at the web site, which offers an inventory of some 20,000 separate marine products for pleasure, sport and commercial fishing vessels.

The orders are bundled by computer and transferred to one of the dozen suppliers whose products Go2Marine handles.

The supplier takes the list, picks the ordered product from inventory, then ships according to customer instructions, with overnight delivery being an extra-cost option.

“We don’t keep an inventory, but we take the responsibility for the delivery,” Cook said.

The company’s web site also has something that few brick and mortar operations can offer – on-line parts manuals.

“As a boater, why should I have to call the supplier, who usually only has one manual and won’t give it to me?” Cook asks.

To make parts shopping easier, the web site contains “exploded parts diagrams,” similar to assembly instructions that show the parts of a piece of equipment pulled away from each other.

Cook, who headed the island’s PeeWee football program for many years, has been in the maritime business all his life as a commercial fisherman and charter boat-owner.

A University of Washington MBA, Cook spent 24 years working in development and marketing for Seattle’s Marco Marine, a commercial fishing-boat builder.

In early 2000, Cook left that job and teamed up with partners Ken Wakazuru and Rick Meslang to start the on-line parts business.

It took Cook and crew 18 months to build the software and put the web site together before Go2Marine could get up and running.

“We hired some of it out and did some of it ourselves,” Cook said. “We had to put in pictures, descriptions and prices for 20,000 parts.”

Cook brought in Dave Johnson as executive vice president. Johnson was most recently the senior marketing director for Western Marine, and supervised the opening of 18 stores for that company.

Cook said that in the first three months of operation, Go2Marine has “exceeded expectations” for volume. And while he says that the company could sell stock to the public at some time in the future, that is not the basis on which the company was founded.

“We are sticking to sound small-business principles,” he said. “Our objective is to operate a profitable business.”

The Bainbridge Island location was selected for convenience – Cook and many of the employees live here – and for the availability of employees.

“We knew there is a lot of talent on Bainbridge Island, Poulsbo and Silverdale,” he said. “We felt we could capture that talent if we could offer people a program on the way up.”

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