Pelican Marina's new owners make EC their homeport


Melissa and Niels Jensen, owners of the Pelican Marina, are shown in front of the business on the Camden Causeway, Friday.


By William F. West
Staff Writer

Monday, December 5, 2016

CAMDEN — Traveling two miles to find gas may not be a big deal on land. But it is on water, particularly if your boat’s gas mileage is low.

That’s one of the reasons why the reopening of the Pelican Marina on the Camden Causeway is being celebrated in the local boating community. The marina’s new owners, Melissa and Niels Jensen, plan to be selling both diesel and non-ethanol gasoline when the spring boating season opens.

Melissa Jensen said the lack of someplace in Elizabeth City for boaters to buy fuel is something she and her husband heard a lot when they were investigating whether to buy the Pelican. Currently the closest place for local boaters to buy fuel is at Lamb’s Marina in Camden.

“It's a big deal when you have to go several miles up the river to get fuel when your boat only gets one or two miles to a gallon,” she said.

The Jensens, who bought the Pelican Marina from Halstead Venture Partners in July, are currently at work restoring the marina. They hope to hold a grand reopening ceremony in the spring.

There’s still a lot of work to be done.

According to Melissa, a key part of the project is modernizing and upgrading the store's interior, along with updating the inventory, all which is a work in progress.  Besides fishing supplies, the Jensens would like to sell coffee, sodas and finger foods in the store.

Other work that is needed involves upgrades to electric and water service at the marina’s boat slips, and improvements to the bulkheads and parking lot.

The Jensens also have a major permit application for the Pelican’s restoration pending with the N.C. Division of Coastal Management, though they were able to obtain an emergency order to address safety issues. The work approved and completed involved mostly replacement of numerous bad pilings and a few bad places on the docks, Melissa said.

One part of the project not yet approved, but in the couple’s long-range details, will be raising the store's elevation by four feet. That will reduce the potential of the Pelican flooding — something that’s happened during past bad storms. The Jensens plan to look into possible grant funding to help pay the cost of that project, Jensen said.

The couple also plan to plant a large flagpole on the property and fly the American flag, an Elizabeth City flag and a Pelican Marina flag.

Pride in country and place is something that was instilled in Jensen, 56, a long time ago. She spent a total of 27 years in the military — 15 years in the Army and 12 years in the Navy — and believes her background prepared her for the challenges of getting a business like the Pelican back up and running.   

“In the military we just refer to it as attention to detail,” Jensen said. “That's why they have you make hospital corners on your bed. It's not really that they care how you make up your bed. They want to instill in you attention to detail so that when something important does come up it's just part of your nature.”

Jensen, a Cary native, and Niels, a native of Trinidad, currently live in Yale, Virginia, which is northeast of Emporia. The couple have purchased a home in Elizabeth City, but Melissa is currently commuting from Virginia to Elizabeth City. Neils is currently employed as a heating and air-conditioning mechanic in Virginia but plans to retire so he can work at the marina full time. Both Jensens are avid boaters and own their own boat.

Jensen said she and her husband began looking for business opportunities after her retirement from the military. Deciding they wanted to pursue owning and operating a marina, they first looked around in Virginia before expanding their search to Maryland and North Carolina.

They found out about the availability of the Pelican Marina on the LoopNet real estate-oriented website and, about a year before buying it, decided to visit Elizabeth City. Melissa Jensen said she and her husband loved what they saw in the Harbor of Hospitality.

“Everybody was friendly,” she said. “Everybody was helpful.”

And despite the Pelican Marina's past problems — the business once was Camden County's No. 1 tax delinquent — she says they “could see the diamond in the rough.”

She said the Pelican’s regular customers, some of whom have used the marina since the 1970s, were especially helpful.

 “We just felt very at home there from day one,” she said.

Jensen said she and her husband believe buying the Pelican was a “great decision for us” and see the marina as more than just an investment opportunity.

“It's not just a business for us. It's going to be our retirement home,” she said.  

Jensen said the Pelican currently has three employees. During the winter months, the marina will be open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesdays through Thursdays and from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays. In the spring, the marina will be open daily from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.

The Pelican Marina’s phone number is 335-5108. You can also find the business on Facebook.