Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Puffin Boats Manufacturing Facility...An American Dream

Opportunity knocks all the time.  Sometimes we're too distracted to notice, and other times we are afraid of what is on the other side of the door.  A few years ago my wife Katie and I opened the door wide open, and the wind nearly slammed it back in our face.

At Hamlin's Marine, we order, sell, service, and store boats manufactured across the country.  We have long-established partnerships with famous boat companies including Stingray, Scout, Mastercraft, Cutwater & Godfrey.  These companies are committed to supplying our dealership with high quality production sport boats, pontoons, tow boats, cruisers, and fishing boats.  

For us there is a business side to boats.  But like you, there is definitely an emotional side as well.
For years, I admired the works of boat builders throughout the state of Maine at the annual Rockland Boat Show.  I envied the purity of small production, custom boat builders...or so I thought.  

A couple of years ago, Katie and I purchased the Puffin Dinghy Company out of Frankfort, Maine.  It seemed like a good idea at the time.  How difficult could making 8' dinghies really be?  Plus, I could keep our growing staff busy throughout the winter months while turning out cute little boats.  It really wouldn't be a big deal, or so we thought...

Trying to combine a boatbuilding operation with a successful dealership was not the right move at all.  I think everyone wondered if we'd lost our minds; I was beginning to believe we'd made an awful mistake.  Re-training, inventory management, fire and health safety concerns, & dust and fumes were obstacles and challenges that we were dealing with on a daily basis.  I began to think that our dream of boatbuilding might be the worst business decision of our lives.
But our Hamlin's circled the wagons, and our team pulled together.  The tides began to turn when one of our customers approached us with an opportunity to build parts for a local yacht builder.  It would be a challenge for sure, but we were determined to succeed.  Our inner circle of long-term employees devised a plan to meet the new customer's needs.  Our fiberglass repair technician, Justin Sass, became a supervisor, and our fiberglass & composites fabrication team grew to five strong in a matter of months.  Pride and determination pushed us through challenges that seemed insurmountable.  

During this time, our beloved Puffin Dinghies took a backseat, and the molds and tooling were tucked away in a dark corner of our storage building.  It was a sad but necessary move.

Meanwhile, my team was meeting with Johnson Outdoors...home of famous Old Town Canoe.  We were hashing out the details of an agreement that would reintroduce fiberglass canoes in the market.

All the excitement and all the growth put a serious squeeze on our facility, and it soon became clear that we would need to build a proper facility if we were going to stay in the business.  We contracted Betsy Poulin of Lucky Rock to help guide us through the regulatory and construction challenges.  She helped us stay on time and on budget to create the new Puffin Boats manucturing facility now fully operational on Route 1A in Hampden.

Today, our team is building canoes, yacht components, and Puffin Dinghies in Hampden.  Katie and I are grateful to everyone who has helped make this amazing facility possible.