By Connor Beach
Boating and the love of the water are often generational, passed down from parents to their children.
The Watchers, who have owned and operated American Marine since 1972, are one such family.
Keith Watcher, American Marine’s president, and his sister Janine, who manages the company’s storefront on Jericho Turnpike in Commack, are the third generation of Watchers who have provided quality service to Huntington’s boating community.
Keith Watcher said American Marine has its origins in his grandfather’s backyard in East Northport where friends and neighbors would bring their boats and marine engines for repairs.
As the business expanded beyond the capabilities of the family garage, the company moved to the Commack location.
Watcher said service and repair of boats and engines continues to be the backbone of the company, although American Marine has expanded into sales as one of the largest Key West Boats dealers in the Northeast.
“Service and repairs is still number one, and it always has been,” Watcher said.
American Marine’s landlocked location means that all of the boats that they service can be trailered, and the engines they repair are mostly outboards, with some sterndrive and inboard/outboards added to the mix.
Watcher said American Marine is a certified Yamaha, Evinrude, Suzuki, Volvo-Penta, Powerwinch and Load-Rite Trailer dealer and repair facility, and the store has an extensive selection of parts, safety equipment and other marine supplies.
Huntington’s large boating community makes the town an ideal location for American Marine, Watcher said, and a great place to enjoy the water.
“I grew up boating out of Huntington and Northport…. I have a couple of young kids now and they’re just getting into it and doing the same thing hopefully,” Watcher said.
With the summer months fast approaching, the crew at American Marine is busy getting Huntington’s boaters ready to enjoy their time on the water, and working hard to keep them there.
“The boating season is short enough to begin with, and the less down time the better,” Watcher said. “The idea is not to have an issue, but when you do have an issue you want it fixed quickly and you want it fixed right.”
Watcher said American Marine is willing to go above and beyond to keep their customers in their boats, whether that means working on days off or taking road trips.
As a leading boat dealer and service center, safety is a top priority, and American Marine has demonstrated its commitment to safety by serving as the lead sponsor of Huntington’s Safe Boating Week.
Watcher said he takes pride in making sure that the company’s repairs keep their customer’s boats safe and reliable, as well as making sure that first time boat buyers feel comfortable operating their vessels.
“We have a responsibility to make sure the customer is comfortable with what they’re doing, not just for their own safety, but for the safety of everyone on the water,” Watcher said.
Fixing problems for people is the most satisfying part of the job, Watcher said, along with getting a family into a new boat that might serve as the catalyst for a new generation of boaters.
He said, “Seeing the pictures come in the middle of the summer of a family out on the water with everybody smiling really makes it easy for me.”