By Robin Reid
Mary Griswold is a strong, silent force behind the efficient and successful team at the Shelburne Shipyard, Vermont’s oldest and only full-service marina, located at the far reaches of Shelburne Point. At this year’s Small Business Administration (SBA) award ceremony held at the Shelburne Farms Coach Barn Mary was honored as the 2013 Vermont Woman-Owned Business of the Year. John Davis of Hodgdon Associates in Williston nominated Mary Griswold for the award.
The well-deserved recognition highlights Mary’s leadership at the Shelburne Shipyard for several outstanding reasons—among them, success in sales and profits, consistently high quality service and workmanship, job creation, and the 2010 designation as Vermont first clean marina. Leading the way on the clean green marina initiative helped bring all the other marinas on Lake Champlain up to much-improved environmental standards.
A visit with Mary Griswold at the shipyard proves that she is a quiet leader who trusts her staff to perform their jobs based on each employee’s best capabilities. Everyone working there has a ready smile even while they are just plain busy tending to their duties! During the summer months, Shelburne Shipyard employs 28 people and 19 of those are year-round employees. Shelburne Shipyard employees are known for their loyalty and hard work. Most have been there for well over a decade or until they must eventually retire.
Shelburne Shipyard boasts 100 boats in dockage—the largest on Lake Champlain. In the 1990s, when Mary’s mother was still involved with running the marina, the ladies initiated valet service. This allows boat owners to make a phone call and have their boats put into the water. The boats are then taken out of the lake upon their return to shore. Presently, 72 boats are enrolled in the valet service. This initiative allowed the marina to expand beyond its shoreline limitations. In addition, at least 525 boats are kept in winter storage. Smaller boats or “runabouts” also dock at Shelburne Shipyard and their owners receive the same great service enjoyed by a large yacht owner.
Boat repairs and maintenance are also key to Shelburne Shipyard’s operation. The oldest building onsite is used as a busy shop, overhauling, painting, (with environmentally approved water-based paints as opposed to the copper-based paints used in previous years) and performing general repairs. Boat owners in the know are confident that their watercraft will receive the highest quality workmanship available in the Shelburne Shipyard shop.
The Griswold family has owned Shelburne Shipyard for over 40 years and Mary is quick to credit her parents (now both 92-years-old) as her most influential role models. She is the youngest of three and spent her early years working at her father’s cement business. Mary has fond memories of sailboat racing out of Mallet’s Bay as a child and young woman. Back in those days, her crew from the Mallet’s Bay Boat Club participated in sailboat Round Robins, traveling to Canada to race on the Great Lakes Erie and Ontario. In her spare time, Mary loves to read—especially a good novel.
When asked about the rainy late spring weather we have had this year, Mary said, “Boaters only boat when the sun is out.” But she has faith that the rainy days will eventually give way to sunshine. Commenting on the biggest ongoing challenge for the shipyard, Mary says, “It’s the economy… and getting people to spend money on their boats.”
Mary Griswold modestly accepted her award from Lieutenant Governor Phil Scott at Shelburne Farms, just down the road from her family’s beloved shipyard. Shelburne Point is noteworthy as one of the world’s most lovely locales. It is plain to see the care and devotion that goes toward protecting the environmental integrity of this unique place. You don’t have to own a yacht or a dreamy motorboat to drive to the end of Harbor Road and check out this jewel of a marina. Go have a peek at the beautiful boats or visit www.shelburneshipyard.com.