From Classic Boat Library
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Owens Yacht Co.
The Owens Yacht Co. used Weldwood plywood supplied by the United States Plywood Corporation.
History By Lee Wangstead, Excerpt from "Larson Boat Works/A Short History":
Owens Yacht Company was on a similar mission. Their main interest was in the cruiser market, but had entered the runabout market in the early fifties. In 1957 they built a plant in Tell City, Indiana to produce fiberglass boats. These would be marketed as Cutter Boats, Inc., a division of Owens. They hired three or four key personnel from Lone Star Boats, built a couple of molds splashed from Lone Star models, produced some boats and were promptly sued by Lone Star. There were hundreds of others that were pirating designs from other manufacturers, but none with the financial backing that Owens had. They were an easy target. The court ordered Owens to cease producing these boats and pay a royalty on each one that they had built.
From this harsh lesson, Owens hired noted industrial designer Brooks Stevens to style a new line of boats to carry both the Cutter and Owens nameplates. These designs were mated to an outstanding hull designed by Norman Owens, naval architect and son of Owens founder Charles C. Owens Sr. for introduction in 1958. The first Cutter lineup included three boats: the Jet de Ville, a 15’ runabout; the Como, a 15’ utility; and the Avon, a 17’ deluxe runabout. Cutter advertising proclaimed that they were built in “America’s largest plant devoted exclusively to producing superior fiber-glass boats!”
The dealer network supporting the Owens Yacht Company was based on sales of the large cruisers that they had become famous for. These dealers weren’t accustomed to selling boats to the outboard market. Cutter Boats would have to forge their own way into the marine market. But forge they would, based on the strength of their performance and their strong styling they were making inroads into the small runabout market nationwide. In 1959 Owens also introduced a line of larger runabouts designed and built by John Norek in California.
In early 1960 the Brunswick Corporation bought Owens Yacht Company. Brunswick had attempted to buy Chris-Craft but was outmaneuvered by the Shields group. In buying Owens, Brunswick felt that they had a good catch, for considerably less money than the buyout of Chris-Craft would have required. Owens was to concentrate on the cruisers that they were best known for while the runabout market became a secondary issue. John Norek was still turning out a few Owens runabouts from his Crystaliner plant in California.
Brunswick consolidated their holdings into the Brunswick Boat Division. This new division would be broken down into three distinct groups: Owens Yacht Division, featuring the larger cruisers the company had been known for; Larson Boat Division, selling to the middle and upper level trailerable runabout market; and Cutter Boats, building entry level runabouts.
The main focus of the Brunswick Boat Division centered on marketing this new concept to dealers that were interested in heading into the future with a sure winner. So much was at stake and the market had started to soften at this point in time and the dealers came flocking to this new industry “giant”.
Brunswick knew that they had to consolidate the plants that they still had. The Larson licensee plants in Ontario, California and Casper, Wyoming had already closed their doors. The Tell City plant was going through some intense labor relation’s issues and the decision was made to move the Cutter/Owens operations to a newly built Larson facility in Alliance, Ohio. Although this plant wasn’t operational at the time, the move was made anyway. This left the Little Falls, Minnesota; Nashville, Georgia; and Alliance, Ohio plants to produce enough boats to fill the orders.
After the 1961 season the decision was made by senior Brunswick management to move all operations to a new plant in Warsaw, Indiana. This plant was centrally located and could be efficiently operated, building all three runabout lines: Larson, Cutter, and Owens. The Little Falls plant would be used to assemble the boats after fiberglass production in Warsaw. The Alliance and Nashville plants would be closed. The Alliance plant by this time was operational and producing both Cutter and Owens runabouts successfully. Directions were to take the equipment from both the Little Falls and Alliance plants and move them to Warsaw. This was done over Labor Day weekend in 1961. Brunswick’s idea was to start fresh and eliminate the two factions wrestling for control of the division. They brought in a management team from Chrysler to run this new operation.
In three short selling seasons the Larson name went from the forefront of the industry to entry level production. Carl Kiekhaefer wanted the small boat division gone, and now it was happening, Brunswick was looking to sell the division and try to regroup its Owens cruiser holdings and consolidate the Mercury Marine division.
In late August of 1963 Brunswick tried to shed their small boat division but had no callers. Claiming that the small boat division “did not fit into the total corporate pattern,” they were willing to listen to any offer. They contacted the former management team in Little Falls and even they had their doubts about resurrecting the sinking ship. Earl Geiger, Sumner Young, and Paul Larson became the major investors who bought the company back on November 8, 1963. A later newspaper account listed the purchase amount at “around $160,000”. This was little more than the cost of inventory.
For more information, see the Owens Yacht Marque Club