Mike Bossert, left, and Tony Iarocci are two of the qualified locals at the helm of Marathon Boat Yard. SARA MATTHIS/Keys Weekly

The coconut telegraph rumor mill was working overtime when Bruce and Sherry Popham sold Marathon Boat Yard to “the pie lady” in 2018. Paula Marshall, who owns and operates Bama Companies, providers of handheld pies to McDonalds, bought the yard and did something really, really smart — install locals to run it. 

Manager Tony Iarocci is a commercial fisherman, the type that sits on the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council and the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary boards. He has 40 years of experience in all things boat and/or fishing, and has connections all over town. The first people he reached out to were Mike and Sharon Bossert, who owned and then operated Keys Boat Works for 34 years. Mike Bossert will oversee the boat yard. Then another key member joined the team. Johnny Ferreiro opened an on-site Yahama dealership and repair service. Ferreiro has 30 years of experience, the last 13 as a mobile mechanic.

“I think I am going to be able to offer better service from one location,” Ferreiro said, adding he has added two other mechanics with a combined 25 years of experience. “In the first two weeks the dealership was open, it had already sold seven new engines.”

Iarocci describes Marathon Boat Yard as “one-stop shopping” provided by the “cream of the crop.” 

“We’re up to about a dozen employees right now and we’re very fortunate to combine personnel from the original Marathon Boat Yard staff and the Keys Boat Works staff as well,” Iarocci said.

Marathon Boat Yard handles every aspect of boat repairs and power — bottom paint, fiberglass, plumbing, electrical, carpentry, mechanics, etc. The boat lift can accommodate vessels up to 75-feet long and there’s a new forklift on order that will be able to lift small craft into the new racks under construction — four stories tall, and four boats wide.

“We’re also putting in some new racks — four stories tall, that will be able to accommodate dozens of boats,” Mike Bossert said.

It needs the room to make way for the commercial fishing fleet. Right now, the plan is to keep four boats at the dock and the attending traps. But there are plans to create an independent fishermen’s cooperative to accommodate more. 

 “We are structuring a fishermen’s cooperative for the future, for the south end of the boatyard. It’s part of preserving the working waterfront. But we intend to continue to provide service to pleasure and private vessel owners,” said Iarocci.

That has to wait, though, until the entire yard receives an update — new electric lines run underground, new waterlines and new docks. 

“It’s like anything else; things get worn over time,” said Iarocci. 

The little conch house on the side of the property has been converted into a canvas shop, while Ferreiro runs the Yamaha dealership out of the small building on the other side. The main, large building will soon feature major retail displays — like motors and boats and other marine-related items. 

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