Leon Slikkers, founder of S2 Yachts, is a lifelong inventor

Leon Slikkers, founder of S2 Yachts, is a lifelong inventor

Leon Slikkers grew up on a farm close to Diamond Springs, Michigan, however as an alternative of doing chores, he most popular to work with wooden. So in 1944, after his older brothers, Gerald and Dennis, discovered employment with Chris Craft in Holland, he tried to hitch them.

Chris-Craft did not need to rent him, as a result of he was solely 16 years previous. Lastly, in 1946, when he was 18, Chris-Craft gave him a job within the carpentry division. There, with Harry Bussker as a mentor, Slikkers labored on the cupboards, cabin tops and flooring. In 1952 he was assistant foreman, however then his friends went on strike.

After:The man responsible for Dutch boats Chris-Craft

After: Three brothers, lots of celery and Holland Transplanter

Previous to the strike, Slikkers and one other Chris-Craft worker, Jason Petroelje, had begun constructing 15-foot picket “Runabouts” in Slikkers’ two-place storage at 81 W. thirty fifth St. In the course of the strike, they elevated manufacturing, shopping for scrap mahogany and reducing it into items for 10 boats.

They have been engaged on their fourth boat when the strike ended, however Petroelje did not need to depart. They shared the wooden and ended their partnership. Petroelje began a customized boat enterprise underneath the title Skipper-Craft.

Again at Chris-Craft, Slikkers’ tasks elevated. Quickly he was managing 60 individuals, however he by no means misplaced the need to personal his personal boat firm. He continued to construct boats in his storage. Not like Petroelje, Slikkers’ dream was to construct a community of dealerships and develop a nationwide enterprise.

In January 1955, Slikkers determined to depart Chris-Craft. When he instructed Herm Volkers, his instant superior, that he was leaving, Volkers instructed him to talk to the Vice President. When the vice chairman requested him why he was leaving, Slikkers mentioned he wished to start out his personal boat firm. The Vice President acted stunned, warning him that even Chris-Craft was having a tough time and saying he would have a job ready for him if Slikkers returned.

Slikkers by no means regarded again. Working in his storage, he constructed dual-cockpit runabouts with mahogany decks and molded plywood hulls, which he bought from a Grand Rapids provider. His wrestle was to not promote boats however to seek out sufficient house to construct them.

The place would he discover cash for a manufacturing unit? He proposed to his spouse, Dolores, to promote their home. She agreed, not figuring out the place she, Leon and their two younger boys, David and Robert, would stay. With the Slikkers $5,000 internet after promoting the home and paying off his money owed, he bought the constructing at 791 Washington Ave. – the place the family heating and air-con is immediately – and acquired provides.

However the place would the household stay? Dolores was able to stay within the small condo upstairs, however just for a yr. They lived there for eight years.

In its first yr, as a two-word Slick Craft, Slikkers made 35 boats.

In 1956 Slikkers started experimenting with fiberglass. Initially, he purchased a package from a small firm in Minnesota. Then he met an engineer from Canfield Plastics in Zeeland, who made fiberglass chairs for Herman Miller. Then he purchased 14-foot fiberglass hulls in batches from Ballot Manufacturing Firm, owned by Clyde Ballot, son of Henry pollwho employed Jason Petroelje to design the molds.

To those hulls, Slikkers would add picket decks, chrome {hardware} and upholstered seats bought from AutoTop, one other native firm.

In 1958 Slikkers made their first fiberglass boat – however nonetheless with lovely hand-varnished mahogany decks. In 1960, he constructed his first fiberglass hull and deck boat. In 1962, he confronted an enormous resolution. On the time, he was making about 200 picket boats and 40 fiberglass boats a yr. However he knew he could not develop his enterprise with out specializing in a single or the opposite.

He selected to construct solely fiberglass boats and got here up with an modern design for a 16-footer, which he confirmed on the Chicago Boat Present in McCormick Place. It was a black boat with a crimson inside and white pile carpet. It was the hit of the present.

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Needing extra manufacturing house, Slikkers opened a facility at 1145 Washington Ave. – an previous curler skating rink. In the meantime, his crew, together with former Chris-Craft workers, continued to develop.

In 1963 Slikkers launched an inboard/outboard engine possibility and constructed their first cruiser, an 18ft. His enterprise grew quickly although he refused to work or commerce on Saturday, the Sabbath for Seventh-day Adventists.

We are going to proceed his story subsequent week.

— Neighborhood columnist Steve VanderVeen is a resident of the Netherlands. Contact him through start-upacademeinc.com.

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