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Cliff Williams / The Outlook Ben Russell cuts the ribbon to Russell Marine Boating and Outdoors Center Friday morning.

Customers have been shopping at the Russell Marine Boating & Outdoors Center for a year but Friday, the boating retailer cut the ribbon on its new 150,000-square-foot facility.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Russell Marine put off celebrating opening the store. Friday’s fanfare just highlighted what is going on along U.S. Highway 280 in Alexander City.

“We didn’t plan it this way but it timed well with the other announcements along the 280 corridor from the hospital down to 63,” Russell Marine president Dave Commander said. “We had two grand openings this week, America’s Thrift and us.”

Other recent announcements include the addition of a geriatric program at Russell Medical thanks to a large personal donation from Ben Russell; Alexander City City Council approval of incentives for a new grocery store anchored development at the intersection of U.S. Highway 280 and Highway 63; announcement of Chick-fil-A starting construction and more.

The excitement at the new facility and the COVID-19 pandemic have led to a unique situation for Commander and Russell Marine.

“We really don’t have much in the way of inventory,” Commander said. “Since COVID started, people started social distancing on lakes and on boats. We have sold more boats than we ever have; we have sold more accessories than we ever have.”

Commander and staff at Russell Marine have searched high and low and worked with manufacturers to get inventory in. Commander said the retail operation has a backorder of some 40 Sea-Doos.

“Manufactures haven’t been able to keep up because they were closed down for a while,” Commander said. “Our demand was high and they haven’t been able to keep up. Sales have increased. Supply hasn’t been there. We are out of boats. It is like a feeding frenzy as soon as a boat comes in, we can sell that boat the same day.”

With the outdoor supercenter open, Russell Marine is turning its focus internally.

“We are looking at expanding some of our existing operations,” Commander said. “It will be kind of like what we did at River North and added more dry boat storage, but even that costs a lot of money.”

Cliff Williams is a staff writer for Tallapoosa Publishers.