SPEARFISH | Shawn Darling graduated from college 15 years ago armed with a firm business idea, and not even a drought or great recession would slow his drive to open Recreation Station, a marine and motorsports dealership.
Weathering those obstacles had led to today’s formal opening of RecStation.net, in a new 18,000 square-foot dealership at 3595 E. Colorado Blvd.
Darling, a 2001 graduate of Rapid City Stevens High School, earned a business degree from Black Hills State University in 2004.
He said his theoretical business plan for a marine, motorsports and recreational vehicle dealership, even then named Recreation Station, was more than a college project.
“I started looking at it and thought this could really be a reality,” he said.
He opened Recreation Station in 2005, smack in the middle of a major drought in the region, but with even more of an emphasis on recreational boating than motorcycles, ATVs, snowmobiles and side-by-sides.
“A lot of people told me I was crazy to start a boat business in the middle of a drought,” he recalled. “There were people getting out of boating because they couldn’t access the water.”
But he persevered through both dry conditions and the Great Recession that began in 2009, gradually growing Recreation Station from a 2,500-square-foot space near the business owned and operated by his wife Kelsie, Quik Signs, also on E. Colorado Blvd.
Shawn said he and Kelsie spent nearly seven years looking for a location for a larger shop, considering both existing structures and building new from the ground up. Nothing was the right fit, or offered the visibility they sought.
They found a vacant lot not far from Quik Signs, began construction in August of 2017 and opened, quietly, in the new building last April.
“We’re so glad we didn’t try to convert someone else’s building. We’re glad we built a facility that supports exactly what we do,” he said.
They are doing business as Recreation Station, but signage for the new building reflects the name of their website, RecStation.net.
Darling wanted instant name recognition for that vital aspect, internet sales.
"The sign is easily seen from the interstate and people can be on the website in five seconds,” he said.
“Our website is three salespeople in one,” he said.
RecStation.net offers new and pre-owned boats, working with five manufacturers of new craft, and also offers pre-owned motorcycles, snowmobiles, ATVs and UTVs on the motorsports side of the business.
His original college plan was an equal split of marine, motorsports and RV, but over time, he moved away from RVs, because so many other businesses in the area also dealt in that aspect, he said.
A ribbon-cutting is set for today at the showroom, with a formal grand-opening celebration slated for later this spring.
The new dealership also sells service and accessories, with room for office space and service bays built into the building.
“This is such an improvement over our old spot,” he said.