Bill Gregor's travels around the world once landed him in a Gasparilla Marina position for about one year in 2005.
Now he's back.
The 65-year-old Gregor plans to keep Gasparilla Marina positioned as a world-class facility although he's concerned the business has been too hidden away back at the "end of the world." He plans to change that through enhanced marketing and Internet usage.
This week Gregor shares his plans for Gasparilla Marina, how it can improve its business operations and what drew him back to our little slice of paradise.
QUESTION: What brought you back to Gasparilla Marina?
ANSWER: What's not to like about this area? It's a great area. Great people. It is kind of at the end of the world, though, but I'd given up the hustle-bustle.
Bill Gregor at a glance
Birthdate: Jan. 9, 1947
Occupation: former Lockheed engineer, commercial airline pilot, and now Gasparilla Marina operator
Hometown: Staten Island, N.Y.
Residence: North Port
Family: one son
Education: Old Dominion
Discovered Boca Grande:
Q: How did it happen?
A: Oh, we'd stayed in touch (with owner Mike Wisotsky). I'd known the owner for some time from my old flying days and their operating aircraft so we stayed in touch. This place is like home to me. They said, "Hey we could use some more management, marketing and help with that," so here I am. I'd just finished up a project in Texas and I said, well I'll come back.
Q: You've had a number of careers, including airline pilot and Lockheed engineer. How would you describe what you're doing now?
A: I do various projects. I specialize in bankruptcies, mergers and acquisitions mostly for airline companies. I put together business plans and operational plans, if you will.
Q: Why leave Gasparilla Marina the first time?
A: That was the end of what I had told them we would do. Give me a year, we'll do some marketing and bring it up to another level and we did. It was just time for me to move on.
Q: Since you returned in December 2011, have you had a successful first 10 months?
A: Absolutely. We've seen an increase in business, an increase in our relationship with the customers. We're reaching out more to our customers. My background is in engineering and electronics and the Internet is wonderful. I can incorporate all these things - Internet, marketing, video and customer relations - and put the whole thing together. We're revamping our whole website and Facebook. It's really an exciting project and a lot of fun
Q: What are Gasparilla Marina's strengths in marketing?
A: We have 2 acres of storage fully enclosed. Unheard of. This is a world-class marina. As far as offshore fishing, it's spectacular.
Q: You've tried to retire five times and it just doesn't seem to stick. Why?
A: I'm a Type-A personality. I just can't retire. I'll retire when my head hits the desk. I just realized that. (Work) is enjoyable. It's really enjoyable.
Q: What are your work duties at Gasparilla Marina?
A: I get up early in the morning, I'm an early morning person, and I get a chance to walk around and view the marina and see what might need tweaking and take a look at the overall condition of what we have here. My focus is on customer convenience, customer appreciation.
Q: What are your 2013 goals?
A: The marina has always been - from fuel dock to lift operators and everything else - customer-service oriented. We have an anniversary coming up where we'll do customer appreciation days next year during season. I did that seven years ago and it was a lot of fun. There might be some enhancements in the restaurant area, growing that a bit.
Q: Gasparilla Marina takes advantage of the summertime lull to finish projects. What happened this summer?
A: It got quiet here but look what we've done here. We've had various repairs constantly going on. This is a saltwater environment so it's constant repair. We're modifying our floating docks, added a seawall and more dock space and will be able to expand that a bit. Those are ongoing projects. The owners are always thinking of how to improve the place.
Q: What are the staffing levels at Gasparilla Marina?
A: Pretty consistent at about 40.
Q: As a world traveler, what are some of your favorite stops besides right here on Gasparilla Island?
A: I love Montana. Unless you start to get older and it's too much snow to shovel. Florida is always a great place to come back to. I enjoyed Saudi Arabia but only because of the diving. The water was spectacular out there. Vodka clear. And the great, free state of Texas. I especially miss the Houston Opera.
Q: How did you discover Boca Grande?
A: I had a boat. I was tired of driving up and down the Intracoastal and going out into the Atlantic every now and then. The owner said, "Why don't you keep your boat over here and try this area?" I did and never went back to the East Coast.
Q: You had an interesting experience your first time on Boca Grande. Tell us about it.
A: In the 1980s, we lived in Saudi Arabia and I came to Boca Grande on vacation and we sailed through the area. I remember my son going, "Look out, we're going to hit the fish!" And I said "What?" All these tarpon were stacked up in the little channel that goes between Boca Grande and the reef. I never saw so many tarpon just laying in the current. Could have walked across them. Just spectacular.
Q: Do you have a set amount of time you'll stay at Gasparilla Marina as you did your first stint here?
A: This is open-ended right now. There's a lot more I can still do here as far as customer service. I work directly at the pleasure of the owners.