Spokane Journal of Business

Sales swell for StanCraft Boats

North Idaho manufacturer looks to expand its new facilities in Hayden

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-—Mike McLean
Robb Bloem, president of Stan-Craft Boat Co., says the company is making more than 20 luxury boats a year.
-—Mike McLean
A StanCraft boat hull starts to take shape in an early state of production. It takes about eight months to custom manufacture a hand-built StanCraft boat.

Barely a year after settling into its Hayden headquarters and production facility, Stan-Craft Boat Co., the North Idaho-based maker of hand-built wooden boats, has launched plans to expand its operations there this summer, says StanCraft president and co-owner Robb Bloem.

“We built this so we could be more efficient and build more boats,” Bloem says of the 30,000-square-foot corporate building on the StanCraft campus at 2936 W. Dakota, in Hayden, where the company moved last year from Post Falls. “We’re running against that wall already because production is so heavy.”

In all, StanCraft has 100,000 square feet of corporate, production, maintenance, restoration, and storage space on the 9-acre campus.

Bloem says StanCraft plans to construct a 48,000-square-foot facility south of the developed portion of the campus in July.

“Were going to put storage in there, and we’re going to convert one of the other buildings on the campus into 12,000 square feet of production.”

StanCraft has 70 employees, and its workforce is expanding, Bloem says.

“We’re growing at a pretty good clip,” he says. “We have 12 to 15 new employees this year, and by next year, we’ll probably have 12 to 15 more.”

Bloem estimates StanCraft will invest $2 million in the expansion, which includes acquiring and installing new equipment.

“We’re in the middle of a big machine procurement,” he says. “We’re having a sewing machine made in Germany for our upholstery department that’s the same machine Bentley and Rolls-Royce use.”

The company also plans to acquire computer numerically controlled milling machines, “so we can get more efficient and take away from some of the bandsaw monotony,” he says.

StanCraft currently is producing more than 20 boats a year, up from 12 to 15 annually before moving from Post Falls.

Bloem says the average StanCraft boat is 30 to 35 feet long, although the company has seen significant sales growth in larger boats in the range of 40 to 50 feet.

The top end StanCraft boats are “breaching $1 million,” Bloem says.

Boats larger than 30 feet generally are powered with twin inboard engines.

“They have twin MerCruisers starting at 430 horsepower each,” he says. “This year, we’re doing three big boats with twin 520-horsepower engines.”

On the other end of the spectrum, StanCraft makes 14-foot to 17-foot boats powered with outboard engines.

Prices for the smallest StanCraft boats start at around $45,000.

The smaller boats originally were designed as an entry point to the StanCraft line and as an alternative for people trying to save money by restoring older wooden boats.

“A lot of guys restoring old boats would spend $50,000 on restoration, and, in the end, they were worth virtually nothing,” Bloem says. “We can do a boat for them for a reasonable number, and it will be worth something for a long time. It will run really good and look good, and it will be a StanCraft.”

It turns out, however, the smaller boats appeal to another built-in market for StanCraft.

“They ended up being secondary boats to bigger StanCraft owners,” Bloem says. “Almost every one of those little boats is owned by somebody with big 34- or 36-footers.”

StanCraft’s next “entry level” boat will be a 25-foot boat to be outfitted with a 200-horsepower outboard engine.

“It will be a very utilitarian boat with classic lines,” Bloem says. “It will be less expensive in StanCraft terms.”

StanCraft boats, with their distinctive African mahogany hulls, are known around the world.

“They’re going everywhere,” Bloem says. “We sent one to Thailand and one to New Zealand this year.”

StanCraft also has delivered boats this year to U.S. customers as far away as Texas and New Hampshire.

Most new customers find out about StanCraft through the company’s internet presence and through friends of friends, he says.

“The network in the boating world is really small,” Bloem says. “The gentleman in Thailand was asking about a boat for his yacht and knew someone who summered in Coeur d’Alene who happened to have a StanCraft.”

Most StanCraft boats, however, are bought for use in the Pacific Northwest.

“To this day a little over half of what we do stays in Coeur d’Alene or the Northwest,” Bloem says. “We’re doing a lot in Seattle right now and a decent amount in Portland.”

Some of StanCraft’s work is becoming less seasonal than it used to be.

“We’re definitely busier in the spring, because we’ve got 500 boats in storage that we’ve got to get on the water,” Bloem says. “We used to sell in the fall, and they would all be delivered in May and June. We still have heavier deliveries in May, but now we have a couple of deliveries every month.”

It takes about eight months to build a StanCraft boat. As of last week, the company had 16 boats in production.

Bloem says the mechanical and maintenance divisions also are active year-round.

“We have as much work off the water as we do on the water anymore,” he says.

StanCraft also handles more than 50 restoration and refinish jobs a year, Bloem says.

“We do anything from a new transom name to a total rebuild,” he says. “It’s a substantial part of our revenue.”

Bloem is a third-generation family member to head the company.

His wife and StanCraft co-owner Amy Bloem is the granddaughter of Stanley and Delores Young, who founded Stan-Craft Boat Co. in 1933 in Lakeside, Mont., near Flathead Lake.

Her father, Syd Young, moved the company to Coeur d’Alene in 1981, about the time that the movie “On Golden Pond” caused a surge in demand for classic-style wooden boats.

A decade later, StanCraft enjoyed a boost in visibility as the maker of water taxies shuttling golfers to and from the Coeur d’Alene Resort Golf Course floating green.

The Bloems started running the company in 2003 when StanCraft had only two other employees.

The couple bought the StanCraft name from Young in 2009. They operate StanCraft as two companies under the umbrella of Juliette Corp. One company, Stan-Craft Boat Co., is the wooden boat manufacturer. The other company, StanCraft Marine Center, has several divisions, including retail sales, service, and restoration.

Bloem, who was trained as an architectural engineer, applied his skills to designing wooden boats when he came on board the company.

Now, he doesn’t spend as much time in the design loft as he used to, and designer Tom Baldwin handles much of the design responsibilities.

“Tom and I still work together, so a lot of the concepts are mine,” Bloem says. “Tom will take over and do preliminary sketches and we’ll take it down to down to our R&D department, and we’ll do a lot more validation.”

On the retail side, StanCraft operates StanCraft Marine Center at 1705 Northwest Blvd., near downtown Coeur d’Alene, and another StanCraft Marine Center, in Portland.

“That’s more of our fiberglass dealership stuff,” he says.

Stan Craft Marine Centers handle MasterCraft, Formula, and Chris Craft boat brands.

“Sales are strong and don’t seem to be going down any time soon,” Bloem says. “The MasterCraft product is doing really well.”

Bloem says many StanCraft owners also own MasterCraft boats—especially those with families active in water sports.

“The StanCraft is the parents’ toy,” Bloem says. “When it’s time to go tubing and surfing and all the other stuff, the MasterCraft comes out.”

Bloem’s personal boat is a StanCraft Gatsby Speedster. “It’s a real pretty boat—a 27-footer with a 625-horsepower engine up front,” he says.

Mike McLean
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Deputy Editor Mike McLean has worked his entire journalism career in the Inland Northwest. Mike, who also lives to reel in fish and crank up music, has worked for the Journal since 2006.

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