Irish Boat Shop is making a leadership transition

HARBOR SPRINGS — A new generation will set sail at Irish Boat Shop, a marina and shipyard with a history dating back over 55 years.

The company recently announced that its board has elected Susan Irish Stewart as chair of the board, a position in which she succeeds her father and Irish Boat Shop founder, David Irish. Stewart, who had previously served as general secretary since 2007, took up his new role on January 7.

“Sue brings a lifetime’s experience in all types of boating as well as a strong business outlook to the role,” said Irish. “She’s been sailing the Great Lakes since she was a kid and grew up in Harbor Springs.”

Irish Boat Shop chairman Michael Esposito, who runs the day-to-day operations of the business, said Stewart’s new role will involve overall leadership considerations such as business planning and strategy.

“It’s a very natural and planned progression of leadership,” he added.

Stewart worked for Irish Boat Shop for eight summers, starting when she was 12. She graduated from Harbor Springs High School in 1979 and then attended Michigan State University, where she earned bachelor’s, master’s, and doctorate degrees in social science, parks, and recreation. After college, she was employed as a social scientist by the U.S. Forest Service until retiring from government office to return to Harbor Springs in 2012. She currently resides there with her husband Gary F. Stewart.

“I grew up in the business and watched it from the outside for a number of years,” Stewart said. “I’m really excited to get back inside.”

Looking ahead, Stewart sees several key objectives that Irish Boat Shop will continue to focus on: helping people have fun with their boats, providing employment opportunities for team members and ensuring that the company stays true to customer desires amid the ever-changing nautical industry. .

Stewart brings a variety of nautical experiences to the position. She has crewed with her father on offshore yacht races over the years including Port Huron to Mackinac, Chicago to Mackinac, Verve Cup, Nood Regatta and recently started racing the J /70 that she owns with her sister. While living in Chicago, she was a regular crew member on an Etchels and raced local and Mackinaw races on an assortment of racer-cruisers. She grew up sailing NM sloops, an iconic and historically significant sailboat in Harbor Springs and a service specialty of Irish Boat Shop.

Although Irish has stepped down as chairman, Esposito noted that Irish still has an office at the boat shop, and the company’s chairman expects the founder to continue offering a contribution to the operation. .

After its founding in 1961 by Irish people and a small group of investors, Irish Boat Shop grew rapidly and added a marina in Charlevoix in 1971. Today the two Irish Boat Shops serve over 2,000 customers with marina docks for 340 boats and capacity for 900 boats in winter storage. The company employs a team of 65 people working together to serve customers. Irish Boat Shop offers new and used boat sales, as well as services including structural, mechanical, electronic and cosmetic repairs as well as maintenance of boats of all materials and propulsion. Find out more at

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