How big is your shop?
I work entirely out of my home. The area used in my basement is 400 square feet, taken up mostly by my 6- by 16-foot table and sewing machines. I also have another room in the house with a serger and a portable sewing machine that I can take to marinas for small repairs. Another spare bedroom and some garage space are used for storage.
What is your product focus?
I try to focus on marine covers and the vast majority of my jobs are mooring and cockpit covers for small recreational and fishing boats. I also do complete enclosures, seat covers, biminis, etc. Due to shop size limitations, it would be difficult to stock inventory and supplies for upholstery. Occasionally, I will take on some upholstery work for the slower winter months.
Who are your main customers?
Mostly individuals. I live in a resort community of small inland lakes and Lake Michigan. Local marinas also refer their customers to me. I prefer to work directly with the customer so I can find out firsthand what they are looking for in their specific project.
Describe your shop layout.
I have two sewing machines that are built into my layout table. My main storage area is under my layout table. It is a very small space that also contains typical basement fixtures like the stairs, furnace, freezer, and assorted canned goods.
What unique design elements are built into your products?
I use only top-quality marine fabric and UV-resistant thread on all new marine projects. I also finish raw edges with a commercial serger to prevent fraying.
What is your work-flow process?
As a small, one-person shop, my work flows as quickly as I can get it out. When I receive a call for an estimate, I go to the boat to meet with the customer, get measurements, and show samples. Once the customer gives me a deposit, I order materials and schedule the job. About 50 percent of my jobs are done at the boat while the other 50 percent come to my yard. I usually try to pattern a job and then go to the shop to fabricate it as soon as possible. I prefer working on one job until it is finished and installed. Occasionally, I will pattern two or more at a location before going back to the shop to begin fabrication. I try to remain flexible because sometimes I have to wait for fabric orders or weather.
How do you deal with scheduling and handling customers?
New jobs are scheduled when the deposit is received. Repairs are usually done, as they come in, when time allows between new fabrication jobs. Since my shop is in my home, I have a strict “no dirty canvas” policy.
What other products do you produce?
I fabricate some products for a local ski resort. I fabricate padded covers for snow guns, poles and other obstacles on the ski slopes. I also make straw-bale covers in bright colors that are used as barricades in the beginner’s area. They have to remain dry or they will freeze as hard as rocks.
Do you create a product that you consider your specialty?
I fabricate canoe skirts for a local canoe builder. They are fabricated from patterns and installed by the OEM.