Boat dealer blames closing on low lake

June 7, 2014

Jeff Gilbert sat his 12 employees down and told them they may not have a job.

It’s the same day Gilbert received his property tax appraisal – a $200,000 increase – on his Fun-N-Sun boat dealership.

“Now if that’s not the cherry on top of a big nasty sundae!” Gilbert exclaimed.

Gilbert is closing the Granbury store and relocating in Cleburne.

“We plan to be closed by next weekend in Granbury,” he said. “And open this weekend in Cleburne.”

The declining level of Lake Granbury is blamed for the move.

The lake hit a record low in September 2011, returned to full capacity briefly in the spring of 2012, and it’s been downhill since.

Lake Granbury is down almost 11 feet, and only one public boat ramp remains open. Most boat docks are standing above dry ground – few have water beneath.

Gilbert said the Cleburne store will be closer to lakes like Whitney.

“A lot of traffic goes through Cleburne to get to Lake Whitney,” he noted.

Fun-N-Sun opened in 1989 with a store in Cleburne. The dealer’s big store in Hurst opened in 1998.

The new Fun-N-Sun opened on Highway 377 in Granbury about seven years ago, after first operating from a leased building.

The Cleburne store was closed three years ago, Gilbert said, to concentrate on the Granbury store.

Gilbert said Fun-N-Sun is known for hosting big fishing tournaments, drawing large crowds for the weekend.

“But we can’t have them here. So, we’ve been going to Ray Roberts, Possum Kingdom, Lewisville and Whitney,” he explained.

Boats sales in 2013 were down 31 percent from 2012, Gilbert said. Sales for the first five months of 2014 are down 50 percent from the same five months in 2013.

“Every bit of this is attributed to the lack of water in the lake,” he said of the drop in sales. “Sales at the Hurst store are up $1 million.”

Gilbert feels like officials don’t understand the impact of the low lake level.

“That lake is detrimental to business, and the city (Granbury) and the BRA (Brazos River Authority) don’t understand. A couple years ago the city sold some water!”

To say that Gilbert is not happy is an understatement.

“I got hit with a double whammy,” Gilbert said. “I’ve got a house on the lake with no water. And I don’t get any service work (at the dealership) because all the boats are stuck hanging in the slips.”

Inventory from the Granbury store will be moved to the Hurst and Cleburne locations. The building in Granbury is for lease.

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