Zaloudek's Marine closing down, Autry Tech purchasing property

Brian Zaloudek (left) and his father, Jim Zaloudek, pose for a picture in the Zaloudek Marine dealership workshop, July 11, 2019. (Mitchell Willetts/Enid News & Eagle)

Zaloudek Marine, Northwest Oklahoma's only marine dealership, is soon closing down.

"It's already a done deal," owner Jim Zaloudek said, noting a contract for all the property and all the buildings is signed, and Autry Technology Center is the buyer.

Oct. 1 is the deadline to vacate, but departure could come sooner depending how remaining stock sells.

Everything but boats and motors are 30 percent off. There's also an auction coming in early September, he said.

"We've got a lot of stuff to try and get rid of, and hopefully sell before we get out," he said.

The dealership, with a nearly 80-year run, was a success in all the ways that matter in business, and in other ways besides.

"Not many businesses have four generations, to the end, and last close to 100 years. Not in today's world," Zaloudek said.

His father, Gene Zaloudek, first opened the dealership in 1947, not long after developing a fondness for waterskiing. A fondness found in a night at the movies.

"He saw a clip from Cyprus Gardens, where people were waterskiing, and that stirred his interest," Jim Zaloudek said.

Wherever he looked in Oklahoma, Gene couldn't find a pair of water skis with which to pursue the sport. A minor inconvenience.

"So he made some skis, nailed his tennis shoes onto those skis ... and he was the first person in Oklahoma to water ski," Zaloudek said. "He skied up until he was 85 years old."

Prior to taking an interest in aquatic accessories and vehicles, Gene owned and operated the Zaloudek Implement Company, opened 1922 in downtown.

In 1973, Gene moved the boat business to 1802 N. Van Buren, where it's operated as a full-service marine dealership since.

Jim Zaloudek's son, Brian came to work at the dealership in 1984, he said, and for a period, the founder, his son, and his grandson, all worked side by side.

"He was out here every day up until his mid to late 80's," Brian Zaloudek said of his grandfather. "Often the first one here and the last one to leave."

Brian has worked at the shop for 35 years, he said. "It's the only thing I've ever done."

He'll do something else now. What that is he doesn't know, but he'll find it, he said.

There were "a lot of different factors" that went into the Zaloudek's decision to sell. Online business has hurt sales on accessories, for one.

Also, the pair of service technicians they employed are gone, one to Dallas, the other to retirement. There's nobody left to make repairs for the customers that need it. It's tough talent to replace, hard to find, hard to bring to Enid, Oklahoma.

So, when an opportunity came up to sell, they opted in.

"The world keeps changing in a lot of respects," Jim Zaloudek said.

"Boating is still a fun thing for families to gather and stay together, and develop a lot of memories ... that part hasn't changed."

Those memories will still get made, but some of the necessary pieces to create that picture-perfect lake trip won't be bought from the Zaloudeks. It'll take a longer trip to Stillwater, Oklahoma City or Tulsa.

Zaloudek Marine has sold boats to people living in 28 different states, he said. Customers from the Panhandle, and even Wichita, Kansas, come to the Enid shop for maintenance, repairs and purchases. One boat sold even made its way to Africa for use in missionary work, he said.

Over the years, all kinds came in. Plenty of fishermen boasting of catches too big to be true. Customers who smashed holes in their hulls one way or another. A stray dog once wondered up into the ceiling, fell through onto Zaloudek's desk as he worked.

It was a second home in the truest sense, for more than one Zaloudek.

He'll miss it, he said. He wonders if customers will feel the same.

"I hate for them to miss us, but nothing lasts forever and it's time for a change," he said.

"It's been a real pleasure."

Autry Tech has no "exact" plans for the property at the moment, director of communications Mandy Mayberry said. "Nothing has been finalized."

"I can say we're looking into expanding services for local businesses and industries in our community," Mayberry said.

Zaloudek Marine's proximity to the Autry Tech campus, and the existing workshop and warehouse facilities, made it an "ideal piece of property," Mayberry said.

"I think it's going to be a great opportunity for our community and a great opportunity for Autry to expand our training services."

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