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Friends form new company -- Overlapping careers fulfill dock and lift needs

J.J. Ebersole and Russ Seaberg have known each other for years.

With nearly 35 years of combined experience in fields with overlapping clientele, they decided to team up and pool their expertise into a new dock and lift company.

Lakes Edge Dock and Lift, which officially opened for business on May 1, features the knowledge of Ebersole and Seaberg to consult on major brands of docks and lifts, tailoring to the needs of lake home owners.

In addition to consultation services, they install and remove equipment at the beginning and end of the lake season and will recover equipment for insurance assessment if a storm hits.

They'll even remove the snow from the driveways of cabins when patrons are away for the winter.

Seaberg, who worked for 25 years in the motor sports industry, approached Ebersole, who had been working with docks and lifts for eight years, about the idea.

"I was working for another dock and lift company at the time, but it was time for a change," Ebersole said. "Russ knew I was ready to leave and he approached me with the idea of partnering up."

It made sense, Ebersole said, because people used to buy jet-skis or boats from Seaberg's store and then ask Ebersole to install the lifts, so they were able to bring much of their loyal clientele with them.

Even the name, Lakes Edge Dock and Lift, is a spin-off of Seaberg's Fergus Falls store, Edge Motorsports, which he has since sold.

But in a community where lakes are plentiful, so is the competition.

"We're definitely worried about competition," Ebersole said. "Not only of the other companies out there, but especially for guys that do it on weekends or in their off time as a side job. Competing price-wise will be hard to match."

Not being a part of a larger corporation, however, could work to their advantage since it allows Seaberg and Ebersole to get personal with clients and build a trusting relationship.

"A lot of our customers are friends, too, and we talk even when it's not about business," Ebersole said. "They'll call me on my cell or we'll e-mail during the winter to plan for the next summer."

Building that kind of rapport with clients, Ebersole said, is the most important thing to the business, and one of the biggest differences from other large dock and lift companies.

For the consulting, Ebersole said they make sure to ask clients plenty of questions about how often they use the lake and visit their cabin, whether they have kids, and if they plan on installing and removing the equipment themselves.

They'll even do custom designs if desired. Ebersole's own dock features a built-in table and umbrella, tiki torches, and ropes.

"The idea is to extend the cabin feel out to the dock," Ebersole said. "But, we really try to establish what their needs are, what's right for them."

They don't charge by the hour or make commission, either -- it's one flat fee for their services.

Although both Ebersole and Seaberg are Shore Station product certified, they don't sell a particular line of products, and they don't make commission.

"I was never a salesman," Ebersole said.

So far, the guys have two employees, and pretty much run the business out of a pickup truck -- and they want it to stay that way: small.

They initially thought of buying office space and hiring a secretary, but decided against it. It might be in the future, Ebersole said, but isn't in the plans yet.

"Even if we get lots of business, we want to stay small," Ebersole said. "I'll have to start turning away customers at that point, but we don't have those troubles yet."

At the end of the day, though, Ebersole said it's all about the customer.

"I want them to have as much fun in the summer as I do," he said.

To contact Lakes Edge Dock and Lift, call (218) 849-5633.