In February of this year, Budget Marine's second location in the U.S. Virgin Islands opened just off St. Croix's East End Road at Seven Flags Road, Estate Solitude. The store is five minutes by car from two of the island's key concentrations of boaters. "We're 1.5 miles east of Green Cay Marina and 1.5 miles west of the St. Croix Yacht Club," said Ben Rivera who owns and operates the store with his wife Annette. The new store carries marine supplies, parts and accessories, and is a Mercury Marine authorized dealer and service center.
Boater Bill Dunne, who is active with both the St. Croix Yacht Club and St. Croix's U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary, says the store is a welcome addition to the island and offers a good in-store selection. "And if they don't have it, they can order it for you," Dunne said. A pile of Budget Marine catalogs inside the front door awaits boaters searching for something specific.
Rivera and his wife both were born on St. Croix. He has worked in the public and private sectors of the U.S. Virgin Islands, having headed up the St. Croix Chamber of Commerce and worked in product development for a high tech startup company. "I've learned a lot, both from successes and failures," Rivera said. He welcomes the affiliation with the Budget Marine chain, which has ten other locations throughout the Caribbean.
"Because we are part of Budget Marine, we have a great support network – for buying and for consulting with technical experts," Rivera said. "The network allows us a global range of products never offered on St. Croix before because of Robbie Ferron's years in the business." A team from Budget's Cole Bay, St. Maarten headquarters visited St. Croix to assist with the store's launch.
During their first few months of business, the Riveras have been getting to know their customer base better. "What goes on our shelves is what they really want," Rivera said. "We are taking a good, in-depth look at what's moving." The couple has stayed busy setting up new accounts, including commercial clients, and they are seeing new customers drop in from across the island. "We're user-friendly," he said. "We have men, women and kids coming into the store."
The hanger where Budget is located has a roomy, two-level indoor service bay with a lift for hoisting engines. Upstairs, the large building houses private offices and additional showroom space, with Mercury outboards on display. "We have room to expand," said Rivera.
Operating hours are Monday to Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. and Saturday, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Telephone: 340-778-2628, www.budgetmarine.com.
Chris Goodier is the editorial director of All at Sea. Her freelance articles and photographs have appeared in numerous other publications including Caribbean Travel and Life and Caribbean Meetings and Events.