Boat leasing business to open in Daytona

DAYTONA BEACH — A member of the family that up until recently owned Parker Boat dealerships in Orlando and Daytona Beach plans to launch a new venture here Saturday.

Bobby Parker will become the franchise owner of Freedom Boat Club, a boat-leasing business that will be at Halifax Harbor Marina.

Parker’s family owned Parker Boat Co. for 85 years until last year when they sold the business, which included a boat dealership just south of Daytona International Auto Mall on North Tomoka Farms Road — to Clearwater-based Marine Max.

“I grew up in the family’s boat business” said Parker, 37, whose grandfather founded Parker Boat Co. in 1927. “I have a lot of experience in the business and that knowledge will transfer over to my work with Freedom Boat Club.”

Halifax Harbor Marina is on the west side of the Halifax River at 125 Basin St., south of the Halifax River Yacht Club.

Parker hopes to fill a void being created by the closure of Sunset Boat Club at the end of this month.

Sunset Boat Club was owned by local entrepreneur L. Gale Lemerand and was directly adjacent to the now-closed SW Grill at Sunset Harbor, a restaurant that shut its doors in January and was also owned by Lemerand.

Sarasota-based Freedom Boat Club has 75 locations throughout the nation, including 29 in Florida.

Members of the Freedom Boat Club that will open in Daytona Beach will have access to five boats as well as boats from other franchises at the chain’s other locations, which include Jacksonville, St. Augustine, West Palm Beach and Miami, said Parker.

Membership levels vary from a seven-day a week plan, which allows members to reserve boats any day of the year, and a weekday-only plan, according to Freedom Boat Club’s website.

Parker said he chose to purchase a franchise rather than starting a business from scratch because of Freedom’s reputability.

“It would have been easy to go the independent route and open my own boat club,” said Parker. “But the more I examined Freedom Boat Club, the more impressed I was with the operation. I wanted to be part of that network.”

Parker said the Daytona Beach location will have five employees. The boats range in size from 20 to 25 feet.

Marc Phillips, general manager of the 550-boat slip Halifax Harbor Marina, said he welcomes the addition of Freedom Boat Club.

“We’ve never had a boat club here before, so this will be an extra source of revenue for us, considering their docking and fuel fees,” Phillips said.

The Daytona Beach Freedom Boat Club will open Saturday with a grand opening event planned for March 29. For more information, visit freedomboatclub.com.

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