Spokane Journal of Business

StanCraft boat manufacturer rides wave of growth

Post Falls boat maker to move to larger space

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-—Mike McLean
Amy and Robb Bloem own and operate StanCraft Marine Center in Post Falls.

Stan-Craft Boat Co., the Post Falls-based venerable wooden boat manufacturer that’s no stranger to staying afloat in turbulent times, actually thrived during the Great Recession and is now stronger than ever, its third-generation owners say.

Coeur d’Alene-area residents Robb and Amy Bloem took over the business in 2003 and rebuilt the custom manufacturing operations while expanding its storage and restoration services and adding retail sales that include three brands of fiberglass boats.

Today the company has 50 employees, about double the workforce it had two years ago, says Robb Bloem, StanCraft’s president.

Though before 2003 he hadn’t envisioned running a boat company, Bloem says it’s by far the best job he’s ever had.

“We get to turn piles of lumber into something that goes really fast,” he says.

StanCraft is outgrowing its manufacturing plant, a 17,000-square-foot facility located at 4739 E. Seltice Way in Post Falls, and it plans to move next year to a 72,000-square-foot complex the company recently bought in the Garwood area north of Coeur d’Alene, Bloem says. Until then, it will use the Garwood property for storage and mechanical work.

The company operates the StanCraft Marine Center pro shop and showroom at 1705 Northwest Blvd., near downtown Coeur d’Alene. There, it sells MasterCraft, Formula, and Chris-Craft performance boats, ski, and wakeboard equipment, as well as boating accessories.

StanCraft also has refinishing and storage operations at a 60,000-square-foot complex it owns in Hayden.

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, took over the helm at the company in 1970. Business fell steeply during the oil crises of that decade, Robb Bloem says.

Syd Young moved the company to Coeur d’Alene in 1981, about the time that the movie “On Golden Pond” sparked renewed interest in vintage wooden boats, reinvigorating Stan-Craft Boat Co., Robb Bloem says.

StanCraft’s main business at that time was restoring wooden boats, although Young also built a few wooden boats on speculation, he says.

When Coeur d’Alene hotelier and business magnate Duane Hagadone ordered two StanCrafts in 1989 to be used as water taxis for the Coeur d’Alene Resort Golf Course, it increased StanCraft’s visibility, Bloem says.

Syd Young, looking to retire, cut back on operations and sold much of the company’s assets to Hagadone Marine Group in the late 1990s.

Robb and Amy Bloem returned to the Coeur d’Alene area after living a few years in Seattle and took over what remained of StanCraft in 2003.

“In 2003, there were four of us,” he says, including Amy Bloem, who is now an administrator in the company.

Robb Bloem, an architectural engineer, who hadn’t worked for the company before, applied his skills to designing wooden boats.

By 2005, StanCraft was two companies operating under the umbrella of StanCraft Marine Center of Idaho LLC.

One company, Stan-Craft Boat Co., is the custom wooden boat manufacturer. The other company, StanCraft Marine Center, has several divisions that handle retail sales, service, restoration, and storage.

Business was slow on the manufacturing side until 2006, when StanCraft designed and built a 36-foot, missile-shaped boat for famed NFL quarterback John Elway. The sleek craft, powered by twin 700-horsepower V-10 Viper motors, was capable of cruising at 85 mph. It drew a lot of attention in the luxury boating world—which generated a wave of orders that hasn’t subsided at StanCraft yet.

The Bloems bought the company, including the StanCraft name, from Young in 2009.

Today, the manufacturing side of the business generates 30 percent of the StanCraft’s revenue, although manufacturing is still the heart of the company.

StanCraft builds 10 of its top-of-the line custom boats to order every year, and they often sell for upwards of $500,000.

“Of 10 hulls we build a year, six are new designs,” he says

Aside from the African mahogany hulls, no two are the same, he says.

With each custom boat, StanCraft tries to incorporate unique features that the owner can show off.

Fueling envy is an effective marketing ploy for a company that doesn’t do much traditional advertising, he says.

“Our goal is to create constant jealousy,” Bloem says.

After the initial design work, it takes nine or 10 months to construct and deliver a boat.

Not every StanCraft customer wants a missile, but most boats can cruise at 50 mph, Bloem says.

StanCraft is wading into a small amount of production-line work, Bloem says.

MasterCraft recently announced an agreement in which StanCraft will build a limited line of wooden ski boats that will list for up to $250,000. StanCraft will construct the wooden bodies for the boats, and MasterCraft will provide other components.

StanCraft has a similar agreement with Bennington, a pontoon boat maker, in which StanCraft will lend limited design and construction work on about 35 boats this year that will list for around $130,000 each. 

StanCraft also is introducing a limited run of smaller boats ranging from 14.5 feet to 20 feet in length, some of which will have outboard motors, and will list for between $55,000 and $100,000.

StanCraft Marine Center’s dealership territory for MasterCraft, Formula, and Chris-Craft includes North Idaho and most of Eastern Washington.

Coeur d’Alene is the main market for StanCrafts, Bloem says.

“About 60 percent stay here,” he says.

The other 40 percent are scattered throughout the world, he says, noting that StanCraft custom boats have been shipped as far as India,.

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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