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Philadelphia Inquirer
Surgeon turns troubled yacht-maker into successful operation
The boatbuilder expands its facilities and its product lines as its owner aims to make "the world's finest sports yacht."
By Suzette Parmley
Inquirer Staff Writer

SOMERS POINT, N.J. - "Feel that," Ira Trocki says inside a $772,000, 43-foot Egg Harbor sport yacht docked at the Yacht Club.

Trocki's hands slowly glide over the kitchen counter, as if caressing an expensive piece of art.

He does the same to the door. The closets. And to the cabinet, where the yacht's controls are hidden.

"Feel how smooth it is," he says, running his hand over the cabinet panel. "It feels like glass."

Trocki, 53, a plastic surgeon who spends much of his time altering faces and bodies, can't help but touch everything on the boat. His hands are the judge.

To him, it's like feeling the skin of a patient after a nose job or tummy tuck.

It's all about symmetry.

Perfect contours.

Perfect lines.

And perfect boats.

When he's not redesigning noses, Trocki oversees Egg Harbor Yachts, an aggressive up-and-comer in the industry that's riding a wave of success.

And the company, which Trocki bought in 1999, is about to expand to include larger, custom-made sport-fishing yachts and a new line of accessories. Dozens of workers will be hired for the expansion.

Behind the company both financially and philosophically is Trocki. Since acquiring Egg Harbor Yachts - four years ago a padlocked factory on the brink of bankruptcy - for $1.6 million, he has expanded its reach, increased its revenue, and enhanced its reputation.

Patrick Sciacca, editor at New York-based Power and Motor Yacht magazine, said Egg Harbor Yachts has steadily gained market share in South Jersey and in its genre - the sport yacht - in the last three years.

"They are pretty aggressive with their marketing, and, once the boats are out there, word of mouth is out that they are building a really good product, and people are noticing," he said.

Viking Yacht Co., New Gretna, Burlington County, the largest yacht manufacturer in South Jersey, is watching the upstart.

"It's competitive," Viking spokesman Peter Frederiksen said. "There's a limit to the market."

Less than four years ago, Egg Harbor was making only one boat a year.

Last year, it sold 35 boats, averaging about $500,000 each. Trocki said he wants to sell more than 50 this year - not bad for a cabinetmaker's son who grew up on a chicken farm in Mays Landing in Atlantic County.

His quest is to create the perfect boat - and every company acquisition takes him a step closer.

In 2001, Trocki supplemented the company's offerings by purchasing two Florida boat companies: Predator and Revenge. Predator produces four versions of a 35-foot model, and Revenge constructs high-speed yachts that range in length from 55 to 65 feet and can take up to two years to build.

Last fall, he purchased Murray Bros., a West Palm Beach, Fla., manufacturer of fishing accessories. He moved the company to the Egg Harbor City plant, where workers are now producing chairs, tables and rod holders.

"It's not a question of how big or how successful," Trocki said of his long-term goal. "It's to build the world's finest sport yacht. That's where we're heading, and we keep improving because you can never stop."

Last April he acquired the assets and highly prized molds of Buddy Davis Yachts, of Wanchese, N.C., known for its "Carolina Flare," a pointed bow that flares up to the deck, allowing the boat to travel effortlessly through rough waters.

Trocki said he expects to build about eight to 10 Davis yachts a year. They run as high as $3.5 million each.

"It's a higher line," he said. "A larger, more expensive boat with a great, unbelievable tradition."

Trocki just got zoning approvals to expand the Egg Harbor plant by about 40 percent and add 25,000 square feet. The move will create as many as 100 jobs.

"It is certainly a major shot in the arm, as far as our economy is concerned," Egg Harbor City Mayor James McGeary said. "And when he completes his expansion, [the economy] will be the largest it ever was."

Trocki - class of 1968 at Oakcrest High School in Mays Landing - did his undergraduate work at the University of Pennsylvania and got his medical degree from Loyola University in Chicago. He later returned to Philadelphia to complete residencies at Temple University and Thomas Jefferson University.

He lives with his wife and children in an oceanfront home in Margate.

Trocki spends a day and a half a week at his private practice in Northfield, the Trocki Plastic Surgery Center.

But real estate is where he amassed his fortune. In addition to Egg Harbor Yachts, Trocki owns the Yacht Club here - a bed and breakfast and gourmet restaurant where the company's vessels are docked - and hotels, apartment complexes and office buildings in South Jersey.

On a recent afternoon, sweat dripped from Bill Walling's brow as he bent down and installed rope cleats on a 35-foot Express yacht inside an Egg Harbor City plant.

"With Doc buying the company, he's really helped it to grow," Walling, 20, of Mount Laurel said. "And with him buying the other companies, the amount of products we'll be putting out will just be incredible."

Every part of an Egg Harbor yacht - from the hull to the cabin - comes from a fiberglass mold and is made at the plant. One day last week, several sanding machines were buzzing away, smoothing out the fiberglass exteriors. Some employees worked more quietly behind a mask, using a small piece of sandpaper to patch and buff the fiberglass to make it smooth and shiny.

Outside the plant, Hector Mattei, 47, was assisting Gerardo Montes, 35, as he cut excess fiberglass from a fuel tank for a 45-foot Davis yacht.

Trocki, walking through the plant, carefully inspected the pipe that draws fuel from the tank and asked about durability.

"He's better than any other boss I've had," Montes said in heavily accented English. He has worked for Trocki for a year and a half.

Trocki calls his workers his family. Last Christmas, he bought everyone a windbreaker with the company logo. When he took over the Florida and North Carolina companies, he shut down those plants and moved the work to Egg Harbor City.

"South Jersey has the best boatbuilders," he said. "The quality is second to none."

His roots are here. His father, Jack Trocki, was a home builder and an idealist about his work - making a great impression on Trocki. Like the younger Trocki, he loved working with his hands.

"He used terms like 'beautiful lines,' " Trocki said of his father, who died seven years ago. "He was ahead of his time, a true visionary."

Trocki wants his own four children, who range in age from 14 to 25, and grandchildren to continue his legacy with Egg Harbor Yachts. His wife, Shari, owns 51 percent of the company, and often gives decorating tips for the new boats - such as wallpaper in the interior - for a homier, open feel.

"My vision is to grow," he said, "to make our yachts to where the whole world will say, 'Wow, that's an Egg Harbor.' "

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