Spending time with family has also turned into a money-making business for brothers Mark and Brian Foster. Selling and renting Apex pontoons allows the Foster brothers to do what they love while operating their business Foster Bros. Marine. Luckily Apex makes great pontoons that help make this possible.
Mark and Brian Foster have been owners of Foster Bros. Marine for nearly seven years. Before they bought the dealership it was called Mullen Marine, where Mark used to work for a college summer job. He became familiar with the business and how it ran while Brian was building up his clientele for his own mobile marine business. A few years later he and Mark joined together to run Foster Bros. Marine. Brian is in charge of the service department, which is a fairly new addition to the dealership, while Mark does all the sales and marketing.
"We love the unique style of Apex pontoon boats and what they offer. We have a full line of Honda Marine engines and are working on getting Mercury motors as well," says Mark.
Apex offers a full product line with drastic changes occurring year to year and that's not something you can say about all manufacturers.
The Good Guys
"The owners are great guys. When you need something done they are there to help and very nice. They truly stand behind the company," says Brian.
"We like working with all the guys: Mark Dupuie, Brad Lemerand and Bob Blum, whom the kids refer to as `Uncle Bob,'" says Mark. "They are a great company to work with. They constantly ask us what ideas we have and what we are seeing on the market."
Lemerand routinely asks the brothers what they want to see, so they can build a boat that is sellable for them. Their approach is great and they do use the suggestions they give them.
The Apex line of boats is very unique to the market. Apex is the only manufacturer who concentrates on a small pontoon but still offers variety. Other manufacturers of small pontoons don't always seem to have the same quality as Apex products. They offer high-quality pontoons with the entry-level and luxury combined.
"Just because someone wants a small boat, doesn't mean cheap. For a 14- to 20-foot boat, Apex has over 40 models to offer, and no one else can do that," adds Mark.
A Family Affair
The brothers have truly turned their business into a family affair. Both families enjoy boating together. Mark and his wife Melissa have two kids: Kai who's six, and Brynn who is four. They live in Delano, Minn. Brian's wife Jodi, and their three kids Sydni, nine; Brenna, six; and Gavin, three, live in Norwood Young America, Minn. When their families take the boat out, they are usually on the water for six to eight hours, maybe even longer, and likely go out one to two times a week depending on what they have going on.
From Memorial Day to Labor Day you can expect awesome, beautiful weather, and if you're lucky, a few weeks after Labor Day. This last September the families took the boat out on Lake Minnetonka, and it was 80 degrees with all the beautiful fall colors. "You don't get better than that, and that was our last day on the water so we could end on a good note," says Mark.
Foster Bros. Marine is truly a family business. If you buy a new pontoon boat and need it delivered, there is a good chance their dad Stu will meet you at the lake. During the summer their mom Carolyn is there in the office helping out and answering phones, and they just hired their younger brother Jeff to help them out as they grow as well.
The marina rents three Apex boats and they use all three for fun, which is a nice little perk to owning your own business. This next year they are planning on getting a fourth Qwest `toon, since they get one every year. This past year they added an 18-foot Qwest LS XRE Cruise Triple Tube (their favorite) with a 90hp Honda engine. In 2011, they purchased an 20-foot Qwest LS XRE Cruise, with a 50hp Honda, and in 2010 they started with a 18-foot Qwest LS XRE Cruise with a Honda 40hp engine.
Mark's family loves to water-ski, tube and cruise when they take the Qwest triple toon LS XRE out. Brian's family enjoys fishing, especially now that the kids are older. They like to catch whatever fish they can, depending on the season, but usually Crappies.
The three different lakes they visit and encourage their customers to try include Lake Minnetonka, Lake Independence and Lake Waconia. When they want to go cruise and hit up some restaurants, see some multi-million dollar houses and explore some islands, they head to Lake Minnetonka which is 12 to15 minutes away. If they want to play more, ski and have a beach for the kids, they prefer Lake Independence, which is 8 to 10 minutes away. Brian tends to go to Lake Waconia a lot, especially when his wife's side of the family is in town. The Fosters' favorite lake varies depending on what activities they want to do.
Qwest's LS XRE
The brothers love riding on the Qwest triple toon and say it is an amazing experience and feel the overall ride is very impressive for the size.
"My wife won't drive anything bigger than 18 feet," says Brian. "So it's perfect for her. The ride is so smooth even when you give it a little throttle. The boat responds differently than any other boat. It flows like a regular boat, but it adds lift and support."
Brian also enjoys the arrangement of the triple toon. It caters to cruising and fishing and that makes the boat more versatile.
"There is more than enough room to spread out-it's a play pen on water. When you beach it, you don't have to worry about having cosmetic damages because it can take it. The boat handles like a runabout except its drier and doesn't sink in the water like most pontoons do. It's the coolest, all-around boat I've ever been on."
Mark loves the advantages of the triple toon as well. "The first time I stepped off that boat, I had the biggest smile on my face. I enjoyed that boat ride that much-the space, speed, quality was terrific."
Mark also enjoys how much safer it is, especially with his family. With larger cruisers being out on the lake, you can expect to hit some big wakes and waves, but it handles so well and you don't feel like you are being bounced all over.
As soon as Mark's wife Melissa gets on the boat she immediately turns the music on. "It's the first thing she does when she get's on, while the kids jump around and head for the chips," Mark laughs.
The digital stereo system allows you to hook up to your phone and iTunes and it's one of Mark's favorite features, along with the Infinity speakers, GPS color depth/ fish finder, tilt steering, designer floor, comfortable seats and ski/tow bar.
Lake Minnetonka has a lot of smaller bays which make it nice for smaller pontoons. The triple toon just buzzes around and can keep up with the rest of the pack. You can take family, kids and have the room and luxury to bring everything you want without feeling crowded.
"I can't say enough about the boat, and I won't go back to a regular pontoon," adds Mark.
Foster Bros. Marine has always been a part of the rental business, but they added the pontoon sales when the market hit and the desire to rent and buy was coinciding. They are eliminating fiberglass ski boats from the line and going with Qwest because triple toons have more to offer. When Mark skied for the first time behind the triple toon he was so impressed with how quickly and easily it pulled him right out of the water.
"It pulled me out of the water just as good as my dad's 20-foot Sea Ray," says Mark.
When you rent a pontoon from Foster Bros. Marine it comes with a trailer. They did this so you can choose any lake and don't have to be tied down by a slip. Using a trailer is such an easy process. It is unique that Mark and Brian offer that option, but it certainly is a nice one. With the dealership staying busy, they work six days a week, Monday through Saturday, so Sundays they can boat.
The busiest rental time in the summer, is from late June to early August with the weekends being busier. Halfway through August the schedule tends to lighten up a little for the marina. Week and weekend prices vary, but their hours and days stay the same all year round.
In the off-season Mark and Brian work on storage and service and have boat shows from January through March to work as well. Since Mark and Brian are brothers, they tend to get together quite often. When they take the boats out for the day the cousins love playing, hanging out, having lunch and just relaxing. Isn't that what boating and being on the water is all about?
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Foster Bros. Marine