Customer profile: Ray’s Sport and Marine

“We like to bank where we do business,” said Dave Hernesman, “and we like doing business with local vendors.” That simple statement summarizes the approach that led Ray’s Sport and Marine, a fourth-generation Grand Rapids business, to work with Grand Rapids State Bank, another fourth-generation family business.

The Hernesman family traces its business roots to a feed store started by Dave’s great-grandfather in the 1940s. Grandpa Ray Hernesman started a sporting goods and motorcycle business in 1963, and over the next 54 years, the business evolved. The R’s and J’s in the former name, RJ’s Sport and Cycle, stand for Jim, John, Ray
and Robert Hernesman. As the family grew, the businesses started by these entrepreneurs did, too.

“After you live other places in the world, you realize why northern Minnesota is special,” Dave said. “I played hockey here in Grand Rapids and at Bemidji State University and then moved to Las Vegas after college for work. I met my wife, Jeanette, there, and we moved to Duluth in 1997 so I could take a job at RJ’s Sport and Cycle, part of the family business.

“In 1999 I moved back to Grand Rapids to work in sales at Ray’s Sport & Marine, and I’ve been here ever since. I became the general manager and in 2007 became part- owner, along with Jimmer, Ryan and Ray.”

Ray’s Sport and Marine has gone through a major new construction project to relocate the business to the intersection of U.S. Highway and 8th Avenue Northeast. Even though the business has relocated only a block away from the previous store, the new site will see substantially more drive-by traffic and offer improved access for customers.

“We’re planning a grand opening in February (22nd to 25th),” Dave explained. “Hawk Construction has been awesome, and we’ve using local contractors. We’re excited about this new 15,000 square-foot space.”

Ray’s Sport and Marine offers a wide range of products and services. The sporting goods lines include Lund and Crestliner boats; Bennington pontoons; Yamaha, Mercury, Honda and BRP outboard motors; and KYMCO four-wheelers. They also service these products, and will provide dock-side service, if necessary. 

“Accessories and service are very big for us,” said Dave. “Service is key, and we have three certified mechanics on our team and now we have room to grow.  People expect that we’ll be there if they need help, and it’s a growing part of our business. Many of our customers are seasonal cabin owners, with homes in Indiana, Iowa, Illinois and of course many in the Twin Cities. 

“We’re proud to say that, after lots of hard work, we’re the largest Lund dealer in the country,” Dave added. “We can provide a competitive product to our customers, and with our growth we have good leverage with manufacturers.”

Dave and his family partners now own five stores spread across northern Minnesota—Hermantown, Grand Rapids, Bemidji and Moorhead—with a fifth in ‘Perham’ just purchased in January 2017. The Perham location, like Grand Rapids, is also seeing a new building under construction.

“Our new store in Perham will open in January,” said Dave, “and most people in this area don’t realize that Perham in Ottertail County services an area with more lakes than we have here in Itasca County. We’re excited to get that store up and running.”

The five stores owned by Dave and his partners employ 75 people, with 13 of them working here in Grand Rapids. Each of the stores has a relationship with a local community bank, and the Hernesmans have found that those relationships help their businesses through thick and thin.

“We had a long-time relationship with another Grand Rapids bank,” Dave explained, “but things changed. I knew Cory Colter (GRSB Pokegama branch manager) through our hockey connections here in town, and he introduced me to Jeff Lee (chief credit officer). I would say Jeff is the reason we’re doing business now with Grand Rapids State Bank.

“My dad used to do all of the banking for the business, but I’ve taken on that role now,” Dave concluded. “It’s good to have a business banker you can trust.” 

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