Next week marks the end of an era: On August 31 David Ross, who helped to rebuild Burger Boat Company over nearly two decades, will step down as co-president, in preparation for retirement in early 2008.
Even though the yard will be searching for a senior-level sales rep to take on some of the duties Ross had performed, and even though Ross was very much the public face of Burger at boat shows and other industry events, the yard still has a president. Jim Ruffolo, who has served as co-president alongside Ross, will take on full duties starting next week. In addition, Ross will begin serving as an advisory officer to the top-level management once he steps down. And after he retires, he’ll remain on the board of directors.
To put all of this into perspective, it’s important to remember where it all began. Ross and Ruffolo took over the yard in 1993, after Burger had experienced a tumultuous span. Henry Burger, the fourth generation of Burgers to run the yard, sold it in 1986 to Henry McMillan, a customer who had an 86-footer under construction. McMillan in turn sold the yard in 1989 to United Shipbuilders of America, but on November 30, 1990, the debt-laden yard shut its doors–with the order coming via fax and, adding insult to injury, just 20 minutes before the end of the workers’ shift.
Since the reopening in 1993, Burger Boat Company has delivered about 30 yachts. It also boasts a 48,000-square-foot manufacturing complex and other facilities that are more state of the art than the 1890s-era hull shop (whose sentimental value exceeded its efficiency) that was razed in 2005. It hasn’t always been easy (it never is in this business), but the yard has made great strides in re-establishing itself among American boatbuilders as well as on the world stage.