BY ABBY LARSON
On July 14, 2017, Vallely Sport & Marine of Minot, North Dakota, suffered a devastating blow that completely altered the course of the 29-year-old business. At 3 a.m., a fire swept through the facility, leaving total destruction in its wake.
“The fire took us down to nothing,” explained owner Tim Vallely. “We lost everything; records, files, tools, everything. We had been at this location for 29 years, and everything we had was in that building.”
Despite the efforts to save the store, the losses were heavy. “The fire department fought the fire for 12 ½ hours. What didn’t get burned was destroyed from water damage. We came out of there with nothing.”
Even though the store was a total loss, spirits weren’t dampened at the Minot dealership. For the next 16 months, the planning and construction process marked the beginning of a new era for the Vallely family.
“We were in two temporary locations throughout the planning and construction process of the new store,” Vallely said. “Immediately after the fire we worked out of a 12-foot-by-60-foot temporary trailer. Before winter last year, we moved into an old RV dealer and then in the spring we had to move to another location, which was an old powersports and marine dealership. We felt like gypsies moving around until everything was finally completed and we were able to move into the brand-new store.”
During that time, the changing locations took a toll on sales. After being in one place for 29 years, customers had a hard time locating the suddenly displaced store. “No matter how much advertising we did, it was still tough for people to find us. The first location was really difficult for our customers to find, but thankfully we moved to a second location in the spring that was just two doors down from our property, so it was much easier for them to find us.”
The grand opening took place Nov. 15-18. “The opening ceremony was a great welcome back. We probably had around 1,000 people come out to celebrate with us. We kicked off with a ribbon cutting ceremony on Thursday morning. On Friday we had a customer appreciation VIP night with live music, food and beverages. It was a great weekend and we’re glad to be back.”
While the fire devastated the previous building, Vallely took the opportunity to completely revamp the design and functionality of the store. At 25,000 square feet, the new building is 2½ times the size of the old building with a variety of new features. A new “smart building” set-up is programmed to power up and power down on a monthly calendar to improve efficiency.
Perhaps one of the biggest differences is the two separated service departments. Technicians are separated according to their department, so the marine technicians are working solely on marine products while powersports techs work exclusively on powersports units.
Vallely made the decision to split the departments to keep the dealership organized, helping technicians to maintain efficiency. “We’re happy to still have so many of our great technicians from before the fire,” Vallely said. “They lost a lot in the fire as well; all the tools were lost, so it was more than just me starting from scratch. We were sure to keep in good communication with our employees and we made some strong commitments to make sure they would stay and rebuild with us. Of course, we did lose a few great employees, but we’re lucky to have kept most of them. It was important for us to promise everyone that they would have a job following the fire, and we managed to keep that promise. We have a lot of long-term employees who stuck it out with us and for that we’re very grateful.”
The new-and-improved store has been open for a few weeks now and the future is looking bright. “Everything is great now,” Vallely said. “We’re really excited to be here in a cool new facility that we got to build from the ground up in the way we wanted to. We’ve been in business for a long time, and we’ll keep it going. It has been a great family business.”
Vallely Sport & Marine is a locally owned family business that has been in business since 1974 and in Minot for 32 years. Vallely Sport & Marine serves all of North Dakota, northern South Dakota and eastern Montana. They are North Dakota’s largest sport and marine group, with an additional location in Bismarck, North Dakota.
Vallely Sport & Marine represents eight brands in marine and powersports. The company has been selected 10 years in a row as a Boating Industry Top 100 boat dealership and was named to the 2018 Powersports Business Power 50.