CHUCK HURLEY, THE new owner of Norton’s Dry Dock, sits in one of the pontoon boats available from the business. Ian Stepleton photo
by Ian Stepleton
Though the “Norton” name may be synonymous with Green Lake, even Dave and Krista Norton once needed help getting started in the boat sales and service business.
Thus it may be only appropriate that the grandson of the gentleman who sold them what became Norton’s Dry Dock nearly 40 years ago would be the one to step forward when retirement came calling.
Chuck Hurley, whose grandfather sold the business to the Nortons in 1978, purchased the company July 1.
“My grandfather spent the time with them making sure that they got off the ground and going, and I think they [may be] pay[ing] it forward …,” Hurley said of the Nortons helping Hurley as he takes over.
Hurley, one might say, was born to run the business.
“Where we’re sitting right now was a house that I lived in when I was born. For the first five years of my life, I lived in the house,” he said.
And though in his adult life he’s traveled far and wide-he, his wife and five kids have lived in both Switzerland and the United Kingdom-Green Lake remained home in his heart.
So when opportunity came knocking, Hurley listened.
“I’ve known for the last few years that they were looking at retiring,” said Hurley, who was living in the UK at the time-and therefore had to weigh the option. “But once we decided that we wanted to move back home … there wasn’t any hesitation.”
Later, speaking with his teenage son-who didn’t yet know about the plan to move-about his son’s future career plans, the young man put the idea in context.
“He goes, ‘Yeah, Dad; they tell you if you do what you love, the money will follow. Right?’” Hurley said. “And I thought, ‘Well, that’s a pretty wise statement for a 14-year-old’ …
“And I think I’m going do what I love for the rest of my career.”
At Norton’s Dry Dock, that means continuing to run the business as it has been for years under the Norton family, at least for the forseeable future.
“It’s boat sales, it’s service and it’s storage/winterization and all the touch points along that area,” Hurley said, explaining he’s pleased with Norton’s Dry Dock’s existing mission. “The business has been very stable; it’s a very good business … We’re not going to change anything in the first year or two. We really need to understand the business as it is, the ins and outs and the details of it and then evaluate what the opportunities are for the business.”
Norton’s Dry Dock also offers boat lifts and docks, as well as the seasonal installation and removal of hoists.
But what Norton’s really offers, he explained, is personalized service.
“The one thing that Norton’s has always tried to do is not be the biggest but to be the best,” Hurley said. “It’s that customer intimacy, that understanding …
“The other day we were running out and filling somebody’s boat with gas for them because they were sending their kids up for the weekend and they just wanted to make sure [the boat was ready]. It’s that, the customer intimacy, that we bring and the relationships that we have with our customers that might be different than everybody else.”
Hurley also sees some opportunities to expand upon what Norton’s Dry Dock already does well.
“The business has been pretty focused on the fishing boats historically,” he said, “and I think there’s an opportunity for the pontoon boats and that kind of pleasure-boat market over the next few years.”
Otherwise, little will change. The name will stay “Norton’s,” even as a family that predates the Nortons returns.
“Norton’s has had a fantastic tradition in and around Green Lake,” Hurley said. “Our goal is to continue to maintain that tradition and to be part of the community.”
For more information about Norton’s Dry Dock, call 295-3462, visit it at W3886 County Road T between Green Lake and Princeton, or check it out online at www.nortonsdrydock.com.