Marathon Boat Yard Marine Center was built in the 1960’s and bought by the Diane and Michael van Beuren in 1978. Bruce Popham moved to the Florida Keys in 1998 after an extensive management career with SC Johnson. He was seeking a marine business opportunity and seeing the potential of the Marathon Boat Yard, he negotiated its purchase. At that time the yard was owned and operated by Diane van Beuren and had three employees, a woman office manager and two men in the yard. They completed simple service repairs and bottom jobs and stored boats.
The main office was a small quaint Conch house which now serves as the Boat Yard Admin building. It is one of the few remaining original homes in Old Town Marathon and is believed to have been built in the early 1900’s. Known as the A.E. Woodburn House, it is named after its owner who was the first Postmaster located in Marathon when it was moved from Pigeon Key. In September of 1929, Arthur Woodburn took over as postmaster, a position he held until retiring in 1948. The post office was built where the main drive to the Boat Yard is now. Mr. Woodburn and his wife also ran the General Store and he was one of the incorporators of the Florida Keys Electric Cooperative, FKEC.
Following the purchase Bruce developed a business plan and mission statement identifying key strategies to develop a brand, explore additional opportunities to enhance the business and find the best qualified technicians available.
In 1999, he purchased additional adjacent on the corner of US1 and 20th Street. This building is an old art deco building and it appears in photos from more than 50 years ago. It has been an insurance office, cabinet shop and a junk yard over the years. After its purchase by Marathon Boat Yard, it became Marathon Boat Yard Diesel and housed the Diesel sales and service business purchased from Bill and Mary Cadiz that same year. Cadiz Diesel had been in Marathon for 30 years with a stellar reputation and the dealerships for the Volvo and Detroit brands.
Bruce’s wife, Sherry Popham, joined him in the business in 2000 and in 2002 they bought another piece of property and a building, adjacent to the Yard on 20th Street, to allow for further expansion of the growing engine business.
When MBY Diesel storefront moved to the new facility on 20th Street, it provided the opportunity to locate the Brokerage to its present premiere location on US 1. A brokerage had been in Marathon Boat Yard’s business plan for several years and came to fruition when Marathon Boats and Yachts, Inc. was opened in early 2005.
Also in 2005, Professional Yacht Maintenance was purchased expanding the engine service business into generator, air conditioning and refrigeration repairs.
In an effort to continue with the brand name development and to reflect the expanded nature of the services offered, Marathon Boat Yard Diesel and Professional Yacht Maintenance was subsequently combined with Marathon Boat Yard and the name was changed to Marathon Boat Yard Marine Center (MBYMC). Together, Bruce & Sherry have built the Florida Keys largest full service marine facility serving from Ocean Reef and Key West to the surrounding Caribbean and servicing 100s of boats per year and selling new and brokerage boats. To date MBYMC represents the major engine trademarks of Yamaha, Cummins, Lugger, Yanmar and Volvo; Generator brands of Kohler and Northern Lights and AC brand of Cruisair. Boat lines currently represented include EdgeWater, Mitzi Skiffs, Parker and Premiere Pontoons.
The MBYMC team worked long and hard to earn the coveted environmental designation of “CLEAN BOAT YARD” and “CLEAN MARINE RETAILER”. The Boat Yard is the only facility of its kind in the Keys that has achieved this designation. This was accomplished through implementation and continuation of Best Management Practices that protect our precious environment.
Bruce & Sherry both feel strongly about giving back to the community and have both served on the Boards of the Chamber of Commerce and the Marathon Economic Council where Sherry was President. Bruce currently sits on the Fish & Wildlife Foundation and the National Marine Sanctuary Council where he served an unprecedented 7 year term as chair. He was instrumental, as a Chair of the Clean Boating Partnership, in the establishment of the Clean Marina program. This program is award winning and has been copied by many other states. Sherry has served on the Fishermen’s Community Hospital Board and currently sits on the Hospital Foundation Board.
As of July 16, 2018 and twenty years of operations Bruce & Sherry sold the ownership of the boatyard and the property was purchased. The Popham’s continue to own and operate Marathon Boats & Yachts Inc. the new boat and brokerage sales division. They are active tenants of the property.