Vessel of change for Driver

Published 9:47 pm Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Tom Foster has relocated his business, Motortech Mane Sales and Service, to Driver from the southern part of Suffolk. He believes the move will help rejuvenate the business environment in the village.

A businessman says relocating his marine shop to Driver from the southern part of Suffolk will help breathe new life into the village, some of whose enterprises have recently been having a tough time.

Tom Foster said he chose to move Motortech Marine Sales and Service to Driver after getting a good deal to purchase the old village fire station, which last housed a heating and plumbing business.

Foster had previously rented space at the back of Dashiell’s on Carolina Road, a hunting and fishing store, and before that he was on Holland Road.

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“We’ve got a showroom area, then out the back we’ve got a shop. … It allowed us to come in and have more room,” Foster said.

“I also bought the back half of the property … so boats have plenty of room to turn around when they come here.”

Foster explained that the marine business stemmed from his early love of fishing and history of working on electric trolling motors.

“I worked on them back in the day, and it kind of evolved into full boat service,” he said, adding that he cut his teeth working for Dashiell’s “right out of high school.”

Another reason he relocated to Driver is the village’s easy access for customers to Interstate 664 via Portsmouth Boulevard, Foster said.

Also, being an exclusive service center for Minn Kota and MotorGuide trolling motors – the business sells other marine accessories, as well, including depth finders and shallow-water anchors, so his customers are prepared to travel, he said.

“Realistically, because it’s a niche business, I could operate it out of my house and be OK,” he said.
Foster’s wife Christina was raised in Driver, and they live in the village — another likely factor in the relocation.

Her father worked for the fire department in the old building that his son-in-law is now renovating.

Foster said his customers make special trips from all over Hampton Roads, even from North Carolina, and that other Driver businesses will pick up new customers as his clients come to the village.

“We’re going to put Driver back on the map,” he said. “We’ve got people coming from all around.”

Motortech has evolved through the years and will continue to expand at its new location, Foster said. “The only thing we don’t do is outboard repair,” he added.

Other Driver business have cited the closure of the Kings Highway bridge, the tough economy and a tornado in 2008 that damaged several businesses as contributing factors to a reduction in business in recent times.