By Brian Sherman for The Island Eye News
Mike Shuler, who grew up spending weekends at the Isle of Palms Marina, will be in charge of running the facility once the plan is approved by the IOP City Council. According to Shuler, the manager and principal investor of 32 North, a deal is in place to assume the lease agreements between the city and Marina Manager Brian Berrigan. The agreement must still receive the blessing of the Council, which is expected to address the situation at its regularly scheduled meeting May 24, Mayor Phillip Pounds said. “Attorneys are talking to attorneys,” Pounds said. “Maybe there will be an amendment or two.” After returning from executive session at a special meeting May 6, the Council unanimously approved a measure “to direct legal counsel to prepare documents with an eye toward assigning both of the Marina leases to Morgan Creek LLC.” Under the current agreement, Berrigan operates both the Marina and the Marina Market. “The IOP Marina is a special place near and dear to my heart,” Shuler told Council members at their May 6 meeting. “I spent my formative years every weekend down there, and I still do to this day.” Shuler said he brought up the subject with Berrigan about the possibility of assuming the Marina leases. “He’s been approached a thousand times and a thousand times he’s turned people down. I think our approach is unique. I think the timing is right,” Shuler said. Shuler’s company also runs the Seabreeze Marina in downtown Charleston; the Bohicket Marina near Seabrook Island; St. Johns Yacht Harbor on Johns Island; and The Old Village Yacht Club on Shem Creek in Mount Pleasant. In addition, he is in the hospitality business and the real estate investment business. “We can offer a little bit better customer service experience with some of that background,” Shuler said “We have the largest local footprint of marina businesses,” Shuler added. “The biggest thing we bring to the table is our accounting, operations and HR departments. It’s really important to have these core competencies.” He added that operating more than one marina can prove to be a vitally important advantage. “What happens when your dockmaster gets sick or has to take his dog to the vet? At the end of the day, the ball gets dropped. Since we have a local platform, we can still cover those functions when life happens,” Shuler said, adding that for the same reason, his company is prepared to react to potential storm damage at one of its marinas. “We have substantial resources at our fingertips that are locally based and locally focused,” Shuler went on to say.
“It all goes back to the customer experience.” Shuler said his longtime connection to the Lowcountry and to the IOP Marina should be important factors that help determine whether the Council approves his agreement with Berrigan. A graduate of Wando High School and Clemson University, he said he understands the situation at the Marina “from a local’s perspective.” Though he hasn’t made a final determination about the parking situation at the Marina, he noted that free parking for IOP residents “is important and we’re going to work to figure a way to make that happen.” “I don’t think tourists should be parking for free,” Shuler said. “I don’t think people from Summerville should park for free, but that doesn’t mean they’re not welcome here. It’s important to manage parking at the Marina efficiently but not at the burden of IOP residents.” Shuler would not say how much he will pay for the Marina leases, and Berrigan did not respond to phone calls from The Island Eye News.
“I think it’s going to be a really good thing,” Shuler added. “We’re going to be a really good fit for the Isle of Palms.”