Archive for » October 7th, 2017«

7 signs that Butler County’s economy is strong

Felisa Insignare said her high-end designer boutique was doing so well online she wanted to branch out into a bricks and mortar store and it has proven to be a big success. She opened Designers Items and More, a new fashion boutique catering to “women who have arrived” recently in West Chester Twp. she specializes in high-end, new, pre-owned, and vintage couture designer clothes, shoes and accessories.


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Great Midwest Yacht Co. continues to craft racing sailboats in Sunbury

SUNBURY — In a Sunbury workshop, two people are building a boat by hand.

And not just any boat. The creations from Great Midwest Yacht Co. have won national racing championships.

Doug Laber makes a single design, a 17-foot sailboat called a “Thistle,” and has been doing it since 1975, when he started his company. He fixates on details as classical music plays in the background.

“At some level, I’ve always thought of myself as lazy,” he said. It is not clear whether he is joking.

Laber, 74, and his white-bearded assistant, Dave Stetson, 68, make almost everything on site. They manufacture the fiberglass body in an outbuilding, starting with the glossy and colorful exterior and adding on layers of fabric-like fiber and resins.

In the main building, which covers about 8,400 square feet, Laber spends much of his time cutting, joining and fitting the wood parts that make up the top of the boat. He inserts each screw by hand.

The “voila” moment is when the wooden assembly is done and he and Stetson place it in the completed fiberglass hull. After that, they perform the finishing touches — putting a final coat on the wood and installing metal and plastic fittings.

The customers are sailing enthusiasts across the country, including a few in central Ohio. The company’s reach is broad because Great Midwest in the only boat maker in the country that specializes in Thistles.

Competitors have come and gone over the years. One impediment for newcomers is that Great Midwest’s boats make up a large share of the ones being used, and they last so long that there is a limited market for replacements, said Steve Lavender of Worthington, a Thistle owner who has raced with Laber as a member of the crew.

“I have a boat that (Great Midwest) made me just about 21 years ago, and I’m still sailing it just about every weekend in the summer,” he said. “It’s like you’re buying a well-made piece of furniture, as opposed to something that’s slapped together. There’s a craftsmanship there.”

Mistaken impression

The name Great Midwest Yacht Co. might conjure up the image of a company with a massive facility making massive vessels for the very rich.

The reality is more down-to-earth.

Great Midwest makes three to four new boats per year, which they sell for about $26,000 each. Manufacturing is just one part of the business. The company also sells parts, provides service and will occasionally handle boat restorations.

Laber lives with his wife just a short walk from the shop.

About that name. The word “yacht” means boat. It also has become the term for a gigantic boat for the super-rich.

The latter meaning, which is much more recent, has caused heartburn for sailing enthusiasts who think the word has been taken from them. Many yacht clubs have changed their names to boat or sailing clubs.

If Laber had it to do over again, he would call his business Great Midwest Boat Co., but at this point, he doesn’t want to change his logo, and, at this point, he’s accustomed to people mistakenly thinking he makes gigantic boats.

Laber grew up in Milwaukee the son of a roofing salesman. “I basically learned from my folks the classic, ‘work hard, study hard, and maybe you can get ahead,'” he said.

He earned an engineering degree from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and, in 1967, got a job at Battelle, the Columbus-based research giant. There, he met an older colleague who got him into sailing. He also felt a growing desire to become an entrepreneur.

Laber started Great Midwest with savings and, soon after, deposit payments for the first few boats. He got a big boost when one of his first boats was used to win the national Thistle racing championship.

The company briefly operated in Columbus before moving in 1976 to its current spot in Sunbury, in a former fencing factory. At its peak in those early years, the company had five employees and sold more than 20 new boats per year.

About the boats

The Thistle was designed in the 1940s by Gordon “Sandy” Douglass and given a name inspired by his Scottish heritage. Another of his designs is called the Highlander.

“Every boat is a compromise between what we would like to have and what we can afford to have,” Douglass wrote in Rudder magazine in the 1950s. “The most successful boat is the most successful compromise.”

The Thistle caught on in the United States and has been used as the basis for racing leagues. This is a type of racing in which everyone’s boat is the same basic design and has a minimum weight, which means that the performance is largely up to the crew of two or three people.

Interest in sailing has been on the decline for decades, as the core audience ages and young people have been less likely to pick up the sport, Laber said.

Sailboats were 2.6 percent of the 254,300 new boats sold last year in this country, according to the National Marine Manufacturers Association. The large majority of sales are various types of power boats. Overall boat sales and sailboat sales were both up last year, the association said.

Within the world of sailboat racing in the United States, though, the Thistle remains one of the three most popular designs for one-design racing, Laber said.

Stetson has worked off and on for the company for about 20 years. He is retired from a career teaching biology at Ohio State University, specializing in cell physiology. On the side, he has long been a sailing enthusiast, which is how he met Laber.

“I am a tough guy to work for,” Laber said. “Dave will agree with that.”

Stetson had this to say about his friend and boss: “He tends to be blunter than most people. He has very little patience for stupidity, for people who aren’t thinking ahead.”

Laber is slowing down — a bit. He would like to stop doing boat restorations and focus solely on manufacturing, repairs and parts sales. He doesn’t plan to retire soon but is thinking about how the business can go on after he is no longer part of it.

He’s not ready to talk specifics.

“I would love to see it continue,” he said. “I am exploring options.”

 

dgearino@dispatch.com

@dangearino


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HMY Yacht Sales becomes dealer for new Okean brands

Palm Beach Gardens-based HMY Yacht Sales will introduce an all-new yacht brand at the upcoming 58th Annual Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show. The highlight of the premiere will be the new Okean 50 Flybridge Motor Yacht.

HMY will subsequently debut two additional Okean models, the 53-foot Express Cruiser and the 80-foot Luxury Motor Yacht, in 2018.

All three Okean models were developed by acclaimed Italian yacht designer Paolo Ferragni. An experienced designer with more than 15 years of naval-industry expertise, Ferragni has worked with many of Europe’s most impressive builders.

“The Okean product line is the perfect complement to our collection of new yacht brands,” said Steve Moynihan, president of HMY Yacht Sales. “The Okean 50-foot offers a unique design with the open concept our motor yacht clients are looking for,” Moynihan added.

 



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Boat Elevator Sales Market Research Report 2017 to 2022

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