Skipper Bill's becomes latest victim of recession

SPOKANE VALLEY - After three decades in business, longtime Spokane Valley boat retailer Skipper Bill's closed it doors citing tough economic times.

Skipper Bill's, located on E. Sprague Avenue since 1978, says the recession finally forced the family business to throw in the towel.

"It's a sign of the times," said owner 'Skipper' Bill Bongers. "You go up and down Sprague here and there are a lot of businesses, a lot of places for sale."

For 32 years, Bongers worked hard to build a well-respected and lucrative business. Boats and friendly faces kept customers coming back for more.

"Some years we'd do $2.5 million worth of sales," said Shawn Bongers, Bill's son.

But in the last three years, boat sales and maintenance requests have dropped dramatically. Customers in the area have changed their priorities and focused more on necessities.

"They have to have a home. Secondly, they have to have a car to get to work. Then they have to have gasoline. Then they have to have food for the table. Fourth or fifth, comes recreation," said Bill.

Before the recession, the elder Bonger said Skipper Bill's sold five to ten boats per week. But these days, if they're lucky, one or two boats might make up a week's worth of sales.

"I've seen the highs and the lows, but this one here has really been the worst I've ever seen," explained Bill.

The family run business held on, waiting for an economic rebound that never came.

On Wednesday, Bongers made the difficult choice to retire and put the property up for sale. His son, daughter and many people he loves are now out of work.

The life-long boater and businessman is thankful for years of community support and a wild ride that's finally come to an end.

"I'd like to thank all of them for everything they've done for us."