The Boatyard Boss Eyes Future Growth: Q&A with Nollies van der Merwe

The Boatyard at Club Mykonos, South Africa’s biggest land-based boat storage facility, has almost tripled in size since its launch in December 2011. Now co-owner Nollies van der Merwe plans to open an additional self-storage facility in nearby Yzerfontein. He is also the South African distributor for Vetus products, and has service agreements with Yamaha Lalizas and Mercury. MIASA caught up with him at the Cape Town Boat Show.

How did it all begin?

Me and my wife had boats from before we were married. I grew up with boats in Donkergat across the water, in the 1970s before it was a military area. Then later (with my wife) in the 80s and 90s we came up to Langebaan to sail every weekend. Every Saturday and Sunday we would see people on the roads with (trailer) bearings gone. They would come on a Friday, battle the whole of Saturday to get their boat started, and then leave on Sunday – often without using their boat. So it was always my dream to build a facility where you can have your boat stored and looked after, and all the service is done on the basis that you can just come and enjoy your boat. It’s a one-stop-shop for everybody.

How did you decide on the site at Club Mykonos?

We searched for land, and at first the local council gave us three hectares just where you come in at Langebaan. But that was only on a three year basis and you can’t invest in that. Then there was another option near Long Acres, but they couldn’t rezone that.

But being a boating guy myself I knew Mykonos because we used to use it as our harbour when we came down from Pretoria three times a year (after having moved there with his wife). So we started negotiating with them in 2010, and in 2011 we partnered with them.

How does it work?

We went in partnership with Club Mykonos to develop the land . But it is within the Mykonos complex and everything is closed. If you rent with us then you haven’t even got a garage key – you have to come to the office and we will open up.

Has it proved popular?

In December 2011 we opened with our first 100 garages, and by 2014 we had grown to up to 255 garages. There is also a big store room of 972 square meters which we rent out to the Mykonos Group as a maintenance facility. Then we said we also want a small little workshop where we just do wheel bearings and tune engines – that sort of thing. It has all grown so big that we have full time mechanics. And we also have a shop running in conjunction with that, supplying some equipment. Currently we are the biggest boat storage facility in southern Africa where boats can be stored under roof individually in locked units.

What about future plans?

In Yzerfontein we want to do a self storage facility where people can lock their own boat. I think there is a big market for this in places like Yzerfontein, Hermanus and Knysna. We are busy exploring to see if there are opportunities for us there.

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