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Going for speed, comfort on water

BERLIN—Just off quiet Friendship Road, a short jump from the frenzied Route 90 corridor leading to Ocean City, Eric Fiori has opened the second location for his company Bayside Jet Drive, L.L.C., a dealership for personal watercraft and jet boats.
Some may remember what these toys for water-based adrenaline addicts started out as—basically more fun to watch than to ride, due to the fact that hitting water at top speed on them was like riding a sleigh on concrete. This new generation of personal watercraft comes loaded with an impressive array of comforts and technological upgrades that make them look more like the popular Transformers toys and movie characters than wave skippers.
Fiori, who on Feb. 11 was in the process of preparing for the Seaside Boat Show at the Ocean City Convention Center that begins Feb. 14, says his most frequent customers are in the 50 to 70-year-old age group, basically the same baby boomer retirees who make amped-up motorcycles so much fun to admire along the highway. The price ranges for the personal watercraft are from $8,000 to $17,000, and for jet boats the price range is from $27,000 to $60,000.
First, the technology and reliability of the latest versions of personal watercraft and jet boat equipment has come far beyond where the earlier vehicles began, he said. For example, according to Fiori, the average life span of the watercraft is 15 years, with a warranty claim rate of less than 5 percent.
Second, the machines are absolutely beautiful. Fiori carries Yamaha Wave Runners and Kawasaki Jet Skis with cushioned seating capacities for up to three people, and full-sized Yamaha jet boats from 19 to 24 feet. He also sells EZ Loader and Load Rite trailers for easy transport to a body of water of your choosing, which he said was usually in, but not limited to, the bay.
Third, purchases include such personal touches as demonstrations and instructions, along with customized orders and home delivery.
The 36-year-old transplant from Pasadena, Md., who comes from a family of entrepreneurs, said his dealerships are family-run operations. He has one brother, who has a land management company in Oregon.
Fiori said he has been operating his dealership for the past 14 years; the other location is at 106 52nd St. (Bayside) in Ocean City. He said he worked at marinas in the Ocean City area when he was still in high school.
His new location just made it under the wire before a new Worcester County comprehensive rezoning plan kicked in. He said the county’s zoning restriction could make it a challenge for any future expansion of his business, because his dealership is considered heavy commercial, which would now limit him to the expensive Route 50 corridor.  He called that area cost prohibitive.
Fortunately he purchased his business at 10595 Worcester Highway before the new zoning plan was implemented, so he was fortunate enough to be “grandfathered” in, so long as he does not try to expand.
In addition to the Seaside Boat Show, Fiori also showcases his products at the Bay Bridge Boat Show and the Maryland Boatbuilders & Dealers Expo in Cambridge, he said.
For information on Bayside Jet Drive products at the new dealership at 10595 Worcester Highway in Berlin, call 410-641-3040; or for the dealership at 106 52nd St. in Ocean City, call 410-723-9773. Additional information is available at the company Web site