By Melissa James,York County Contributor
Ned Lipscomb always wanted to own a boat.
As a student at Hampton High School, he made that dream come true when he purchased what he called “a piece of crap boat.”
According to Lipscomb, the wooden boat almost sunk the first time he put it into the water. After that, he began repairing the boat little by little until it could float again.
“I had a lot of fun tearing the boat up and putting it back together,” he said.
Fixing the wooden boat in high school was one of the first ventures into his current career.
Now, on any given day, he and his staff at Ned’s Marine & Auto Center can find themselves fixing some of the most expensive water and land vehicles currently available.
“The boats just got bigger, bigger, bigger,” Lipscomb explained. “I went from a wooden boat to other boats and then I went to buying them and got into the boat business.”
The owner of Ned’s Marine & Auto Center grew up near the area of Smitty’s Better Burger in Hampton. He started his boat business out of his parent’s house before branching out to other areas in Hampton, Williamsburg and eventually settling in York County in the early 80s.
Among other places, he notably operated at the current spot of the Royal Farms gas station and convenience store near the Route 17 side of Coventry neighborhood.
“Before Royal Farms was built, it was me, a tobacco store and a used car lot,” Lipscomb recalled. “Coventry Road wasn’t cut in there yet.”
Seven years ago, he moved into the current home of Ned’s Marine & Auto Center, located at 6326 George Washington Memorial Highway. The location is the former building of the Grafton firehouse and the high ceilings -still reminiscent of a fire station -have proved perfect for raising cars and fixing boats.
“We took it over and redid everything inside. We had boats and then we started getting into cars and selling cars,” he said. “It’s what I’ve always done … car sales and boat sales and we’ve done well.”
On a hot April afternoon, his garage was filled with a camouflage fishing boat, a Porsche and other vehicles undergoing repairs. Longtime employee, Mike Fitzpatrick, was busy working on one of the cars.
The outdoor lot housed a 2006 SeaQuest 2050 WA, a 2013 Volkswagen Beetle, a 2014 Dodge Journey and more top brands including Audi, Cadillac and Mercedes Benz. All were up for sale.
“We’ve got nine boats here right now and they’ve just come in the last two weeks,” Lipscomb pointed out. “We do the James City County boat for maintenance and they just brought it in today.”
The new location does almost everything. Lipscomb emphasized that they will repair brakes, transmissions and more, to meet the diverse needs of their customers.
He’s also a large advocate for buying local. Lipscomb explained that he tries to buy most of his parts, equipment and other items needed for his business from local stores to support the economic development of York County and the surrounding areas.
However, he also provides a service that sometimes takes him out of the county and still benefits his local customers. Lipscomb acts as a personal shopper for car buyers. He researches makes, models and prices that fit his customers’ needs in order to find them the car they want at the best possible price. He recently drove to Pennsylvania to purchase a well-priced Jaguar for a local client.
“You got to find the wow factor. I’m pretty picky when I buy things,” Lipscomb said.
Decades past his days at Hampton High School, Lipscomb is surrounded by exactly what he wanted and more: cars, loyal customers and, of course, boats.
He said with a smile, “When someone needs something done, they know to come to Ned’s.”