Buy Local At Stokley's Marine

Buy Local — Have the Best of Everything

Where to shop is a big decision. Online? Buy Local? Box store? Most shoppers look for the lowest price. But the adage remains true: you really own get what you pay for. With low prices often come low service, low quality, and low customer experience. Customers are forced to choose between price and satisfaction. That’s not true at Stokley’s. As is often the case, it’s the local store that provides the most value. Stokley’s Marine is just such a store, and at Stokley’s you really can have the best of everything.


Benji Bales sprang into the store the other day. And when I say “sprang,” I really mean “sprang.” I believe Benji has only two throttle settings: wide-open and stop. He and his family were days away from taking delivery of their new Sun Tracker pontoon boat. Needless to say, he was excited.

“Hey, Ralph! My boat gonna be ready Saturday?”

I answered, “It looks like we’re on schedule for 2:00pm. Does that still work for you?”

“Absolutely!” I swear I could measure his heartbeat by watching his jugular pulsate. “Liz is bringing the kids straight from practice, and my folks are gonna meet us there. Is that okay?”

“That’s great,” I assured him. “Are you all still planning on heading straight to the lake from here?”

“Yes, sir. We got our VIP Discount Card for Bass Pro Shops a couple of weeks after we signed the papers. I’m gonna run to Clarksville that morning to get a few things for the boat.”

“How far of a drive is that for you?” I asked.

“Just under two hours from the house, if traffic’s not too bad.” Benji’s eyes continually darted around the showroom, as usual, taking in everything he possibly could like a hungry hound on the scent of game.

“So about 4 hours round trip?” I asked him.

“Yep,” he said, with an emphatic popping sound on the final “p.”

“I hear there are tolls now. What’s the cost to get across the bridge?”

“Oh, I forgot about that. I guess it’s four or five dollars.”

“Each way?” I prodded.

“Yeah, I guess we get charged both ways.” His face went pale as if he had just locked his keys in his car.

“So you’ll be on the road for almost four hours, with tolls of close to $10, not to mention fuel and wear-and-tear on your vehicle. And you’ll probably need to stop for lunch. That’ll cost you another $6-10. Whew, sounds like you’re going to have some time and expense wrapped up in the trip. About half the day or so.”

Benjij’s mood rarely spends much time in neutral. There was a long pause. His former jubilation had turned to despair. “Yeah, I didn’t really think about all of that. Maybe that VIP Card isn’t such a good deal.”

“Oh, I think the VIP Card is a great deal. It’s just important to use it to your best advantage. Did you know that you can use it at Cabela’s now, too?”

“Really? I had no idea.” I’m pretty sure that I could hear his emotional gears grinding as he tried to shift too quickly from forward to reverse.

I went on, “Sure. And there’s one on the east side of Lexington at Hamburg. That’s only about 30 or minutes from you all, isn’t it?”

He perked back up. “Yeah! I can stop there to get my stuff for the boat.”

“What all do you need?”

Again, another long pause.

“I don’t know. Just stuff for the boat.”

I wanted to help him think this through a little bit. “Well, the boat will have everything you’ll need to be legal on the water, with the exception of life jackets and a throw cushion.”

“I figured we’d get some life jackets. What’s a throw cushion?” he asked.

“Boats over 16’ are required to have a throwable flotation device. A throw cushion is a square floating pad with straps.”

“Oh, yeah?” he answered with surprise.

“Yep,” I said, with my own emphatic popping of my “p.” “And we sell them here. In fact, we’ve got one that will match the color of your boat.”

Benji moved closer, quickly. “What else do you think I need?” he added, violating any semblance of personal space I falsely assumed I had a right to.

“Well, you want to be sure those life jackets fit properly. The kids will probably want neoprene vests because they need to fit snugly when they’re in the water. Your folks would probably prefer our standard nylon jackets. They’re a lot more comfortable than neoprene for folks who will remain on the boat. Any you’d probably love one of our automatic inflatable life vests.”

“Y’know, a guy I fish with has one of those. He loves it. I’ve been meaning to look into one of those. Do you have those here?”

“We sure do,” I once again assured him. “And you’ll probably want some docking fenders and an anchor.”

“What kind of anchor do you think will be best? And those fender-things—are those the bumpers I see hanging off the sides of boats?”

“Yes,” I explained. The number and sizes of the bumpers will depend on the size of your boat and where you’re docking or slipping it.”

Benji’s shoulders shrunk. “This sounds complicated.”

“It doesn’t have to be. We have people here ready to help. Let’s do this: I’ll get our accessories manager, Michael Foster, to spend some time with you here in the store. He’ll walk you through what you need—and what you don’t. He has been with us for ­­nearly 20 years, and he’s been boating a lot longer than that. I’m not sure you’ll get the same service at a chain store.”

“You know, the last time I went to one I left without buying anything. I just got overwhelmed. Drove all that way for nothing.”

“I understand. But that’s not how it works here. We’re boaters ourselves, and we sell accessories that we trust with our own families. Let me get Michael. Hang on for a second.”

Over the course of the next hour or so, Michael patiently walked Benji through the process of getting everything he needed to make his family’s summer of boating perfect. In many cases, Michael was able to do so at the same price as the chain stores and online outlets. In no case did Benji end up with anything he didn’t need. As he was about to leave, I checked back in with him.

“So how’d that go?”

Benji seemed to have found idle for the first-time since I’ve known him. “Man, Ralph. I had no idea. I was all set to spend a half-day, and a whole lotta money, driving to Clarksville. This was SO EASY. Thanks so much for helping me out.”

“Benji, you know we’re always here for you all. Anytime you need something, just call us or come by.”

“That is such a relief to know. But I got one more question: what do I do with the VIP card?”

I smiled and said, “USE it! It’s a great deal. I know you all love to camp. Use the card to buy your camping gear. Or clothing. Or a new fishing rod. You can even use it at a Bass Pro restaurant. It’s a great deal. You just want to use it wisely. If you need boating stuff, come to us. That’s all we’ve done for almost 50 years, and that’s what we’ll continue doing. If it’s anything else, go to Cabela’s or Bass Pro.”

“So you’re tellin’ me this: you all will help me think through what I need, you have the stuff here, AND I can still take advantage of my VIP Card?

“Absolutely. As I always say, you get the best when you buy local at Stokley’s Marine.”