Though 23-year-old Phil Hess of Upstate Powerboat, a Syracuse, N.Y.-based fiberglass repair and paint shop, has taken his share of criticism—at least some of it well earned thanks to his early outspoken and sometimes brash nature—in the online message board community, his almost three-year-old business continues to thrive. According to Hess, he is completely booked with work through the 2018 Tickfaw Poker Run in early May.
Business is booming at Upstate Powerboat, according its owner and founder.
Among the projects currently in the Upstate Powerboat shop, a 6,500-square-foot space that Hess relocated to in 2016, is a hull blueprinting job on a Kryptonite V-bottom owned by New York-based offshore racer Johnny Saris.
“I’ve seen some of Phil’s fiberglass work and I’m happy to support him,” said Saris. “We don’t do that kind of work. Everybody has to start somewhere, so I’m happy to support someone who is young and my age and building a business.”
While early on Hess entertained notions of offering rigging services, he realized such work was out of his depth. To that end, he refers his clients with rigging needs to WNY (Western New York) Offshore.
“All we do is fiberglass repair and paintwork,” said Hess. “We are focusing on what we know—and what we know we can do well.”
“He’s a hard worker,” said Tony Scioli, the founder of Elite Poker Runs, who lives in the Buffalo, N.Y. area. “I had him do some dash repair work because I had to move my GPS and some gauges in my 30-foot Concept last winter. I thought he did a great job. All the work he’s done that I’ve seen personally looks great. He was on time with my job. He even stopped by—he was on his way through Buffalo—to come look at my boat before he started.”
Check out the slideshow above for current Upstate Powerboat projects in various stages of completion.
In addition to working on Scioli’s center console, Hess sponsored—under the Upstate Powerboat banner—all the three of Elite Poker Run’s 2017 events, as well as the inaugural 1,000 Islands Charity Poker Run in Clayton, N.Y.
According to Hess, who has taken on one part-time employee, he’s in the process of adding a dedicated paint booth to his shop. Current projects include a 38-foot Fountain that “hit a buoy,” a 41-foot Apache from Tallahassee, Fla., and 38-foot Hustler, his own Outerlimits and more.
“We added a paint-mixing system this year,” said Hess. “For awhile, I was turning away work—I couldn’t keep up with it. Most of our jobs don’t come from around here—they come from all over country like the Midwest and Florida. I’m even waiting for a Cigarette Top Gun from Texas.
“A lot of younger guys are getting into the sport around here,” he added. “There are lots of kids here in their early to mid-20s getting into older Donzi’s Fountains and Cigarettes.”