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Grand-Craft’s 36-foot Commuter Grand-Craft’s 36-foot Commuter COURTESY PHOTO

Grand-Craft Boats brings former Chris-Craft building back to its nautical roots

BY Friday, July 15, 2016 02:13pm

HOLLAND — A West Michigan luxury boat builder aims to breathe new life into a facility near Lake Macatawa that once manufactured iconic high-end boats.

Holland-based Grand-Craft Boats LLC, which purchased the former Chris-Craft facility at the end of 2015, has begun building a prototype for its new Super Sport mahogany-wood boat that the company hopes will attract a younger clientele.

“The Super Sport is a new design that will be more attractive to younger people rather than concentrating on some of the older designs we’re known for,” President Jeff Cavanagh told MiBiz. “This is a more shapely, contemporary design that still has a basis in Chris-Crafts from the mid to late ’50s.”

Cavanagh, who purchased Grand-Craft Boats in 2010 and also owns the Anchorage Marina and Boatyard in Holland, expects the prototype Super Sport to be complete in two months.

The 25-foot Super Sport will join four other models of Grand-Craft boats, all of which are handmade from mahogany in Holland. The new model will feature a more rounded design, can accommodate 8 people and includes a 430-horsepower V8 engine. The Super Sport will retail for $279,000 and go on sale this fall.

While Grand-Craft Boats hopes to appeal to younger customers and those seeking a powerful cruising boat with its new Super Sport design, the market for luxury wooden boats remains challenging, Cavanagh said.

“It’s a niche market that a lot of people fantasize about and look at, but not a lot of people pull the trigger and buy one,” he said. “It’s a pretty small market, (but) fortunately there are people that want to buy one and they rarely come for sale again.”

Grand-Craft Boats builds an average of five boats a year, ranging in size from 20 feet to 40 feet. The company also makes custom boats and restores old Chris-Craft and Grand-Craft models.

In addition to producing the Super Sport, Grand-Craft Boats has shifted production of boats under 30 feet to the 10,000-square-foot former Chris-Craft facility, instead of making them at its headquarters at 1821 Ottawa Beach Road.

The move to the new facility also brings Grand-Craft Boats’ history and intertwined relationship with Chris-Craft full circle, Cavanagh said.

Chris-Craft shuttered its facility in Holland in the late 1960s after the company shifted away from building wooden boats and focused on fiberglass designs. When Grand-Craft Boats launched in 1979, it opened its doors to the former craftsmen who worked at Chris-Craft.

“When the company was started, it was exclusively staffed by former Chris-Craft boat builders that were out of a job,” Cavanagh said. “By the late ’70s and early ’80s, a lot of the guys who had been building wooden boats weren’t really too enthralled with fiberglass boats. They had the opportunity to build the first series of 24-foot Triple Cockpits that Grand-Craft built, (which) were replica Chris-Crafts.”

The Super Sport is the company’s first new design in four years. Grand-Craft models typically range in price from $120,000 to more than $1.5 million.

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