By Allison Ross
Palm Beach Post Staff Writer
March 3, 2011
An heir to the Rybovich boat-building legacy has left his family's namesake company - now owned by the Huizenga family - and is striking out on his own venture. His hope: to get a family-owned boat yard flourishing on the waterfront again.
Michael Rybovich, a third-generation boat builder, has bought E&H Boat Works in Palm Beach Gardens for an undisclosed amount and plans to turn it into a boat building, maintenance, modification and repair facility called Michael Rybovich & Sons.
"This business is going to be very similar to the yard my family operated for 50 years," Michael Rybovich said. "We build a good product and do a heck of a job maintaining other people's products."
Rybovich said his son, Dusty, who has degrees in naval architecture and marine engineering, will join the company and become the fourth generation of boat-building Ryboviches.
The Rybovich name has long been an icon of the sportsfishing industry. Founder John "Pop" Rybovich Sr. and sons Emil, John and Tommy built Rybovich & Sons to be what some call the Rolls-Royce of the boat industry.
The family sold the company in 1975, after Pop died in 1970 and Tommy died of cancer in 1972.
The company changed hands a few times, until Wayne Huizenga Jr. bought it in 2004.
Huizenga brought Michael Rybovich back to run its boat-building operations
Rybovich said he parted ways with Huizenga on amicable terms in June and shortly thereafter created Michael Rybovich & Sons.
Rybovich has partnered with friend and longtime Rybovich customer Larry Wilson on the new venture.
The two partners plan to make about $250,000 in improvements at the old E&H Boat Works facility; Rybovich said they plan to operate using the existing layout of the yard.
Chris Hodge, whose family owns the adjacent E&H Boat Works and The Ways, said he's glad that "someone of such stature and heritage and history is carrying (the E&H yard) forward. I can't think of a more desirable suitor."
He conceded that E&H Boat Works has fallen a bit into disrepair over the years, especially as the economy has taken a toll on the business.
"It's an aging and decrepit boat yard," Hodge said. "It languished and has languished for years."
The Hodge family will continue to operate the nearly 2.5-acre The Ways, Hodge said.
That facility - which services 30-foot to 80-foot vessels - will be renamed E&H/The Ways, he said.
Michael Rybovich & Sons plans to start operating within a month, focusing mostly on repairs that can be done with the boats in the water while renovations are made to the facility.
Plans are for the company to hire 15 to 20 workers.
"A number of craftsmen are sitting next to their toolboxes right now, ready to make sawdust again." Michael Rybovich said. "We aim to do our best to create jobs."
The family has built a long legacy in Palm Beach County.