What do you buy when you live in an area as beautiful as ours, and you have limited travel or vacation options given the current constraints? You buy a boat and go out on the water! That’s what Brad Knight, founder and majority owner of Onslow Bay Boats, has found among his customers. Demand is up and business is good.
Tournament Quality Boats Built in Topsail’s Holly Ridge
by Pat Fontana
Business for Brad Knight and his company, Onslow Bay Boats, has been increasing over the past couple of years to the point where Knight has consolidated all of his operations into one new, large facility in Holly Ridge. Onslow Bay Boats started as a Hampstead business, with additional sites in Wilmington. Having the boat building operation spread across multiple locations was logistically challenging, in addition to the fact that part of the space had been rented.
Today, with a “new location all under one roof,” Onslow Bay Boats enjoys 50,000 sq ft of space, and the company owns all of it. As Knight says, “now we have plenty of room to do what we need to do.” The new facility features a showroom as well as a boat-building shop. However, the showroom, Knight says, has “no boats in it right now because we’re sold out!”
The boat business has thrived during the pandemic. As Knight explains, people can’t go anywhere, and they want to enjoy where they’re living. Although the Topsail Island and mainland areas in Pender and Onslow counties are great places to enjoy the boat life, Onslow Bay Boats sells boats all over the country, and has even sold some in other countries such as Mexico. The Florida market is starting to expand as well.
Locally, customers also come down from inland areas such as Raleigh, Fayetteville, and Greensboro. A lot of tournament fishermen turn to Onslow Bay Boats as experienced offshore boaters looking for a step up. Knight says most customers “know what they want.” He says he has had to tell people “I don’t think this is the boat for you” and guide them in the right direction, although most customers are not first-time boaters.
Onslow Bay Boats has very little competition across the country, as these boats are considered a specialty area. The company builds the following lines:
- 27’ Offshore Edition
- 27’ Offshore Edition XS
- 33’ Tournament Edition
- and a 41’ Tournament Edition will be coming soon
Although Onslow Bay does not build custom boats, the company does get requests for custom options for its standard selections.
In addition to boat building, the company offers boat gear, t-shirts, sweatshirts, and other boat-related items in its online store. They also do some service work for boat owners.
Knight was born in Wilmington and grew up in Hampstead. In fact, his parents built the first house in Olde Point. He started his boat building experience as a 13-year old, working for his dad. His father was an airline pilot but started a side business building boats that became Carolina Coast Marina. His father’s business closed, and, after spending a brief time in the spa and bathtub business, Brad opened Onslow Bay Boats in 2005.
Although there have been challenges along the way, the boat business is now booming. With 22 employees, there are plans to add to the team as demand increases. Knight and his team held a ribbon cutting ceremony at their new facility at 400 Betty Taylor Wood Drive in mid-September of 2020. And now Brad and his team are excited about what the future holds for Onslow Bay Boats in Holly Ridge!