Drop the name Bert Glaser in Baltimore medical circles, and many will know him as the surgeon who heads up the National Retina Institute that he founded 20 years ago. But there's a swashbuckling side to the good doctor: When he's not brandishing a scalpel, he's president of Midnight Express, a company that makes some of the fastest—and priciest—speedboats money can buy, with a client list that includes not only well-heeled sportsmen but also police, military, and those Homeland Security folks with the Kevlar vests and dark glasses.
For the private buyers, his 34- to 39-foot party and fishing boats can be customized with all the fringes—high-tech stereos and flat-screen TVs, wet bars, and barbecue grills. And the engines can be raised to allow for beaching the boat, so passengers can go for a swim or wade ashore. The latest optional feature for die-hard sport fisherman, recently patented by the company, is a well that circulates water to hold live bait.
"We have learned to build hulls that perform extremely well under all sorts of sea conditions, so if the weather turns sour and gets rough, it's not a problem. It will get you home," says Glaser. "Plus we developed advanced technology so the boats burn one-third the fuel and go twice as fast as similar ones."
With offices in Canton and a factory in Florida, Midnight Express is the offshoot of an expensive hobby that has actually paid for itself—and then some.
It was two years ago that Glaser, whose family has always boated up and down the Atlantic seaboard, decided to buy the existing business and let his two sons, 27-year-old Eric and 23-year-old Harris, oversee many of the daily operations. Between the two of them, they have both design skills and number-crunching ability: Eric studied engineering and Harris was a business major.
"Like Eric and Harris, I have always loved the water and boating, and you do for your kids what you can," says Glaser. "So when they came to me to try and talk me into making the investment, it was an easy pitch."
The father-and-sons team is selling boats at the rate of about 40 a year, ranging in price from $230,000 to $450,000, an estimated annual sales pace of about $12 million (they won't say). While most are designed for partying and fishing, they're also in demand by governments to keep a lid on smugglers, terrorists, and other ne'er-do-wells.
"We were just in a boating show in Virginia Beach where government agencies came from around the world to view military hardware," says Glaser.