Business

Former Olympic sailor, husband pivot to water protection as new owners of Mattituck company

As a two-time Olympic sailor, Amanda Clark’s concern with water has been a lifelong passion. Her husband, Greg Nissen, the former long-time director of Camp Quinipet on Shelter Island and property manager of houses on the Island and both the North and South forks has always shared his wife’s concern for the environment.

It was no great leap for the couple to concentrate their attention to water quality as the owners of GNS/Mermaid Water Solutions in Mattituck to help others. They want everyone to be assured of fresh potable water.

It’s not a complete abandonment of Olympic activity for Ms. Clark, a former Shelter Island resident, now living with her husband and daughter in Greenport. She competed twice in the Summer Olympics. In 2008 she and Sara Mergenthaler competed in the 470 two-person dinghy races in Beijing, China, finishing in 12th place. Four years later Ms. Clark competed in the same race, this time in London, with Sarah Lihan where they finished  ninth.

In 2018, she stepped forward to coach the Brugman sisters, Nora and Atlantic, who have been sailing instructors at the Shelter Island Yacht Club and hoping to compete in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

Because of the COVID pandemic the Tokyo Olympics were postponed until this summer. But the sisters, despite all their training, were ultimately unable to secure an Olympic spot.

“We will always remember proudly that we fought for every point, that even though things weren’t going our way we never let it bring us down and that it never kept us from continuing to fight hard, the same way we have fought so hard these past four years,” the sisters said in a published statement about their effort.

The pandemic and needs of her family pulled Ms. Clark from coaching — at least for the moment — but she hopes to get back as a principal calling future races that would require one week away from home at an Olympic venue as compared with two or more weeks away as a team coach.

Mr. Nissen said he’s prepared to back her up by caring for their daughter while Ms. Clark could be gone for a week at a time.

For the moment, they are focusing on the business they purchased from John Scaramucci. He had purchased the company and run it for 25 years with his wife Cissy before ill health forced him to sell. He died last month.

Despite the young couple having worked with Mr. Scaramucci, it was not an automatic sale. Mr. Scaramucci wanted to be sure that his legacy of not overselling customers and attending to any problems they might encounter continue under new owners.

It’s a philosophy Ms. Clark and Mr. Nissen embraced with ease when they became owners a year ago.

GNS/Mermaid Water Systems is based in Mattituck, across from the former Capital One headquarters building. But by next summer when their lease expires, they will be moving to their own building being constructed on Route 48 in Southold.

Mr. Scaramucci was “the real deal” in pricing across the board, Mr. Nissen said. “He kept it simple and didn’t believe in scare tactics.”

Mr. Nissen and Ms. Clark identify trends and provide filtration methods to respond to needs.

They take “a holistic approach” to their work and encourage people to avoid use of dangerous fertilizers that affect groundwater.

“Let’s try to stop the destruction now,” Mr.  Nissen said. 

The two bring different skill sets to their work, with Ms. Clark providing organizational skills while Mr. Nissen is the front man bringing in customers and assessing needs.

If he misquotes, it’s not the customer who gets hit with an unexpected bill. The company eats it, Mr. Nissen said.

The owners are united in assuring staff members are well treated, providing good salaries and benefits and creating an atmosphere of fun in the belief that a happy staff will treat customers well. Customer service is number one for them.

“The team is truly committed,” Mr. Nissen said. The aim is to create a culture of education in the community to protect water resources, he said.

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