The clear blue Gulf Coast waters that attract millions of vacationers to Baldwin County every year provide more than just fishing, boating and beach day opportunities—they’re also an inherent part of coastal Alabama’s industry. For many businesses in Baldwin County, the water is integral to their success and legacy—one great example being Saunders Yachtworks.
Since 1959, the Saunders family has been making waves in the region’s economy. And while their services have continually expanded and diversified since their humble beginnings repairing boats in downtown Mobile, their appreciation for the water and the opportunities it provides remains steadfast.
“It’s all about the water,” says John Fitzgerald, President & CEO of Saunders Yachtworks. “You couldn’t pick out a better location to be right in the middle of everything.”
With facilities in Gulf Shores and Orange Beach, Saunders Yachtworks is the premier, full-service marine provider on the Gulf Coast, offering services ranging from engine repair and vessel maintenance to refit projects and, soon, long-term dry storage for transient customers and hurricane protection. The company’s facilities boast nearly 20,000 square feet of covered workspace, accommodating 130-foot boats, as well as a 3.5-acre service and transient basin.
Saunders currently employs 75 full-time workers and an additional 10-15 onsite contractors. And the company just keeps growing. In addition to its dry storage expansion project, Saunders opened an electronics sales and installation department at the beginning of 2015, adding three new specialists to service the department. The company also recently remodeled its Orange Beach facility to include a new ship store, expanding its contract and do-it-yourself offerings.
As Saunders grows, so does its recognition within the marine industry. The company was recently presented with the Best Accomplishment in Refit Excellence Award at the first Refit International Exhibition and Conference in Fort Lauderdale, Florida in February for its work on the Quiteña, a 62-foot Viking Convertible.
For Saunders, though, the water is more than just a prime business opportunity—it’s a way of life. Having become an integral part of the Gulf Coast community, Saunders is also known for its role as a premier sponsor of the Blue Marlin Grand Championship fishing tournament. The culmination of the Gulf Coast Triple Crown Championship, the Blue Marlin attracts fishermen and spectators to Orange Beach from across the Gulf Coast. Saunders has supported the tournament since its first year in 2012, recognizing the value both for business and community involvement.
“The more boats that are here, the better it is for the businesses that support them,” said Fitzgerald. “The families that come down and the amount of excitement created makes it a great event for the community and for the fishermen. We’re delighted that The Wharf [Marina] had the initiative to put this event together, and as long as they have it, Saunders will be a part of it.”
Saunders’ love for the Gulf Coast waters it calls home is apparent. Fitzgerald notes the high quality of life associated with the “beautiful beaches and water, outstanding fishing, and excellent family amenities and opportunities” in Baldwin County, as well as the unique business opportunities provided by being located in Alabama’s top tourist destination.
“The proximity to the water and having communities where most of our employees live nearby is a big plus,” said Fitzgerald.
For Saunders, dropping anchor in Baldwin County has led to more than 50 years of success with no signs of slowing down. “Continued growth creates additional opportunities,” said Fitzgerald.