Freedom Boat Club Enjoys Membership Spike

Todays News

BY JACOB OGLES SRQ DAILY MONDAY BUSINESS EDITION MONDAY SEP 14, 2020

Not every business in hurting for customers because of the pandemic. For boat clubs, a search for safe and healthy recreational activity created a wave of new business. John Giglio, president of Venice-headquartered Freedom Boat Club, has seen a record spike in membership.

“Boating is a way to naturally socially distance,” he said, “and you get outside after feeling cooped up because of the closures.”

Like many businesses, Giglio said Freedom shut down in March as the unknowns of the pandemic struck in Florida and nationwide. During that time, the company looked toward ways to safely reopen. When management announced business would resume in May, Giglio found enormous pent-up demand. More than 150 new memberships in Southwest Florida were sold in April, a record month for the 31-year-old business despite the fact the company was not opening to the public until May 1. The new record didn’t stand for long as May saw an even greater number of memberships sold.

Nationwide, Freedom Boat Club saw nearly 50,000 new members at 235 locations. “This isn’t just happening locally or in Southwest Florida,” Giglio said.

The company offers a chance for individuals to enjoy boating regularly without the expense of buying a boat. The Venice operation opened in 1989. Giglio first started working there in 2004 and bought the company in 2011. It’s since been sold to Brunswick with Giglio staying on as president, and now has francises sold across the country, though all locations between Bradenton and Marco Island in Southwest Florida remain corporate owned.

Giglio said there certainly have been changes in day-to-day operations. While Freedom Boat Club long prided itself on company service with employees helping members move all equipment from the parking lot to the docks, workers no longer can touch that personal equipment. Employees all wear masks, and reservations have been staggered to avoid crowds of people spontaneously arriving and crowding facilities at once. Giglio said the goal is keep the same flow of business come through the club, but space it out so Centers for Disease Control guidelines can be followed.

At this point, the company has seen such a boom in interest there’s now a limit on new memberships so the club can maintain a 10-to-1 member to boat ratio. The surge in business means the club can expand, limited only by the ability of boat makers to manufacture new vessels.

Freedom Boat Club location in Venice.

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