Local Entrepreneur Leads By Example
By Shawna Serig Kelsch
Family Determinism & Optimism Front and Center
Matt Kerr is a marvel: a dynamo of energy, optimism and strength – both mentally and physically.
“What I’m telling you is not anything I remember, but what I’m told happened,” Kerr began.
“I hit the ground hard. There was bone on bone, gravel embedded into my forehead. I broke my hip, shattered my teeth. It was a mess.” With wife Robin alongside, Kerr began a journey to recovery that was, to say the least, hasty.
Seven weeks later, Kerr climbed back on his bike in San Diego, CA., and began pedaling the six-week, 3000+ mile trek east, as planned, to Brevard.
“I made a commitment (to my team riders), who had taken time off of work and trained hard with me for months to prepare for that trip. I was not going to let them down, even if it meant I had to peddle with one foot,” he said.
The trek had a stronger significance. Months earlier, Nate Bowerman, 29, someone Kerr describes “as another son,” and who had lived with the family before and after college had been diagnosed with a deadly form of cancer. Kerr and Bowman both knew the race would occur at the same time that cancer would claim another victim, and Matt asked his young friend what he wanted.
“I asked him, ‘Should I come back for the funeral, for you?’ He smiled and said ‘No, man, just keep pedaling. Keep riding,’” Kerr recalled, his voice deep with emotion.
The Long Ride Home
Kerr addressed the potential skepticism of his riding partners head-on by asking them to help him “train back into shape” or, in other words, to slow down at the start of the journey so he could build endurance and strength after his accident and hospital stay.
After Kerr was back to riding strength, the team averaged 100 miles a day – the physical equivalent of running a full marathon, every day. “We did that six days a week and then rested on the seventh day,” he said.
By the end of the journey, Kerr was in front of the pack, leading the riders to the finish – which happened to be across a few yards of sand and right into the waters of the Atlantic in Satellite Beach.
Kerr, a successful local entrepreneur, relies on his own determination and the support and love of his wife Robin of 30 years, and 2 adult children; daughter Hayley, 26, and son, Clay, 19. If you’re into the local Jet Ski and boating life, you might know a bit about the family. Hayley’s Jet Ski and Boat Rental has been around for a decade, leasing watercraft at the Eau Gallie basin (corner of Eau Gallie and South Patrick) for a decade.
Taking a Chance
The idea for the jet ski business first came about when Hayley was 15 and noticed that her dad was bored and needed something to do. Kerr had managed a number of successful companies and sold them off, to great profit. “We were in Vero at the time and she said, ‘Daddy, you need to do something. You need to be out, connecting with people.’”
She convinced him to purchase two Jet Skis and rent them to visitors in Vero Beach. The business took off, and within a few years they had the largest rental fleet in Florida when they were approached by, and sold to, a larger recreational watercraft rental company.
The family moved up to Brevard to be closer to Clay’s hockey practice sessions at the Space Coast Iceplex. “We bought a house in Viera and, again, I found myself looking for something to do,” said Kerr.
The wheel definitely did not need reinventing and since they were a full county away, the non- compete clause that was part of the condition of the sale in Vero Beach, Hayley’s Jet Ski and Boat Rental was opened – this time with two jet skis and one boat. A few years later, the business humming along, Kerr decided to expand his horizons and the boat rental concept and the 321 Boat Club was born.
321 Boat Club
As most seasoned boat owners know, owning a boat is costly. On average, it costs about $1,000 per month to own a recreational powerboat, plus the time you have to invest in ancillary costs, physical maintenance and repairs.
At the 321 Boat Club members receive benefits like longer hours and preference of the largest rental fleet in Florida, including a diverse selection of more than 30 deck boats, fishing boats, ski boats, pontoon boats and center console boats from Cobia, Yamaha, Hurricane and Sea Ray.
Boat club membership includes unlimited use of boats, from sunup to sundown five or seven days per week based on membership level and really, is a no-brainer when it comes to enjoying life on the water here.
“Hayley’s Jet-Ski and Boat Rental and the 321 Boat Club is located at the intersection of the Indian River Lagoon and Banana River, which allows clients to experience some really incredible options,” said Kerr.
If you’re not sure which way to point the bow, the staff can suggest prime fishing areas or provide custom maps for spotting dolphins and manatees. Another fun option is to visit one of the nearby restaurants that have docks where guests can take a break and enjoy casual waterfront dining. Water ski and tube packages are also available to rent.
With son-in-law Jesse Lim, 29, as general manager and son Clay Kerr, 19, as dock manager for Hayley’s Jet Ski and Boat Rental and the 321 Boat Club, Matt once again found himself looking for “something to do.”
Wife Robin is a 30days2fit consultant, focusing on helping clients increase nutrient intake, balance blood sugars and eat clean. She’s also a food lover, “amazing cook” and knows a bit about wine, said Matt, so the framework was in place when opportunity came knocking.
And it came swiftly. Matt had a good friend who frequented his favorite restaurant, DIG in Suntree “at least three or four times each week. He knew I was open to something new and I got a call from him,” said Kerr.
That call was to inform Matt that DIG, a locally- loved clean food restaurant, was preparing to close after the owner, Gina Pierce, who also owns nearby Tuscany Grill, fell victim to thousands of dollars worth of employee theft.
The announcement went out on Facebook, much to the chagrin of DIG loyal followers, as stories in the local press played out the sad tale.
Behind the scenes, Matt and Robin were already checking out the potential. They tossed the idea around in conversation.
“I told him I thought he was crazy,” said Robin with a chuckle. Matt points out that “in our relationship, I’m the gas and she’s the brakes.” Realizing together that this might be biting off more than they could chew, Matt told Robin “I know I can’t do this unless I get Jackie on board.”
Jackie Roberts, a young restaurant pro they knew from her days as Cheddar’s General Manager, was offered the chance to come on board as partner and owner and Matt and Robin both were thrilled when she agreed.
“I’ve never met anyone like her,” said Robin, “for someone so young – she’s 25 – to understand how to manage and lead, she’s really quite extraordinary.” Matt said once they got Jackie lined up, the rest of the pieces all fell into place very quickly.
“We had the big pieces in place – location and buildout/interior and, for the most part, the menu,” he said.
With input from both Jackie and Robin’s, they tweaked the menu to include Gluten Free, Vegan, Vegetarian and 30D (30daystofit) items that appeal to a broader dining audience.
Known for its all day breakfast menu, DIG broadened the offerings a bit and a few tweaks also were made to the lunch menu, including the addition of Matt’s Thin Crust Pizza – a baked flatbread with fresh garlic and basil, mozzarella, bacon, tomato, chicken, goat cheese and DIG Blackened Salmon – wild caught over quinoa with sautéed spinach.
Favorites such as the vegetarian Beet Burger, DIG PIG (a bun filled with ham, pulled pork, bacon, Swiss and cheddar cheeses, caramelized onion, mustard and pickles) remain. The restaurant has a full complement of beer and wine, coffees, teas and juices.
Additionally, DIG has added a commercial orange juicer and extractor – like the ones found in Europe that churn bright orange globes into liquid gold. Matt can often be found greeting clients with the delicious, fresh-squeezed juice, in between clearing tables and whatever else needs doing at the front of the house.
Tanya Mutton, SCB Senior Art Director, visited DIG at the end of January and after a chance meeting with Matt, enthused about the fact that the restaurant owner was bussing tables. “He’s a right good guy, doing that” She said in her English accent. “I mean how many places do you walk in where the owner is clearing tables?” she asked.
￼321 Boat Club
ADDRESS: 96 E Eau Gallie Causeway Melbourne, FL
PHONE: (321) 507-5400
WEB ADDRESS: 321BoatClub.com
RENTAL HOURS: Members receive
CUSTOM HOURS: Sunup to Sundown
ADDRESS: 7700 N Wickham Rd Melbourne, FL
PHONE: (321) 254-5001