Dave Irish sailed into Harbor Springs as a boy and never left. Photo: Irish Boat Shop.
By Howard Meyerson
In the resort community of Harbor Springs, MI, the name Dave Irish brings nods of affirmation. Accolades often follow about the 79-year-old entrepreneur who sailed into port as a six-year-old boy with his family; who grew up working on boats in his father’s shop; and who, at 24 years old, would open a boat shop of his own.
His legacy, Irish Boat Shop, is well-known in boating circles as a high-quality, family-run boat yard and marina. It opened in 1961 on the sheltered waters of Little Traverse Bay on Lake Michigan. Irish built a second a decade later on Lake Charlevoix where he now offers dockage at two sites.
If asked, Irish admits to being a highly-competitive sailor, also a man who has been involved in the upper echelons of Olympic sailing governance. But those who know him say he’s not one to brag.
“I like being around boats and water and particularly enjoy the company of people who have and use boats,” declares Irish, a tall and lanky, soft-spoken man with a penchant for laughter and enjoying life. “Our customers are here because they want to play with their boats, and my job is facilitating them having a good time. I’ve never felt burdened doing the job I call ‘playing with boats.’ It’s not like a lawyer who almost never has a job that anyone wants because it’s fun. Everyone they see has a problem.”
Boats to play with and things to do
Irish is sitting in his sunny, second story marina office overlooking the waters of the bay. He is dressed in jeans and casual attire, the look of someone who is comfortable with success but without any pretense. Thoughtful and well-spoken, he is known for being civic minded, a man concerned about bettering the community. Irish served as Harbor Springs’ Mayor for six years. Prior to that he had a seat on city council, and helped found the Petoskey-Harbor Springs Area Community Foundation, along with the Little Traverse Conservancy, a regional land trust established to protect natural areas nearby.
Despite his age and having retired as CEO in 2007, Irish still comes into the office every day. There are boats to play with and things to do. His 25-year-old grandson, Colin Texter, the company’s marketing and sales coordinator, has his routine down.
“He’s in every day from 9 to 12 and 1:30 to 5:30,” notes Texter, the youngest of 10 grandsons – and the only one employed by the company. “Professionally, he is very wise and very conservative in his business practices, but personally, he is very friendly and has a positive attitude. It’s in the way he carries himself. He’s not boastful or flashy.”
Irish laughs when he hears of his grandson’s comments. “Evil child,” he quips with a gleam in his eye.
This excerpt is taken from a profile in the August 2016 issue of Lakeland Boating. The entire story can be read online for free. See page 42 of the the magazine’s digital edition.