Not unlike many stories, the Cruisers Yachts story starts from humble beginnings, struggles through change and adversity, and ultimately emerges as a model for success.
The story starts simply enough near the northern Wisconsin town of Peshtigo. It’s early 1904, and Danish immigrants Peter and Christian Thompson are building their first wooden boat in the hayloft of the family barn. The brothers utilize local lumber and harvest what they need along the Peshtigo River. Their first model is a modified lapstrake canoe that they refer to as their “Anti Leak” canoe. By 1912 they are incorporated, and have moved off the farm to new factory in the city of Peshtigo. By now they are known as the Thompson Brothers Boat Manufacturing Co., and 6 Thompson brothers and 1 sister are all employed there. In a matter of just a few short years, they will become one of the largest builders of outboard boats in the world.
The Thompson family tree grew like many families at the time, and so did their presence in the boating world. By the 1950’s, the Thompson family had boat building operations in multiple states, and with the blessing of the Thompson founding Fathers, a third operation was opened in Oconto, Wi. This company, started by 6 of the 2nd generation Thompson men, was the birth of Cruisers Inc.
ENTER THE FIBERGLASS REVOLUTION
The 1960s brought about what might be some of the more dramatic changes in the history of the boating world. New materials were coming to market and their application to the various industries they touched were game changing. This signaled prosperity and new growth for some, and a death knell for others. As the consumers of the 60s shied away from wooden boat construction in favor of aluminum and fiberglass, manufacturers scrambled to transition plants from wood manufacturing to meet the new demand. The transition from wood to glass was difficult on all the Thompson operated companies. Cruisers Inc. struggled too, but they survived and in 1982 acquired the fiberglass portion of the boat division of Mirro Aluminum Co. The late 80s and early 90s saw additional troubles for the Cruisers brand. As the economy weakened, boat building became a difficult business once again and financial pressures mounted.
BECOMING CRUISERS YACHTS
In the face of a tightening economy, things looked dim for Cruisers, then the town’s largest employer. K.C. Stock, a well known businessman in the Oconto area knew very well how devastating the loss of jobs would be on the local economy. His company, KCS International purchased the company and renamed it Cruisers Yachts. Shortly after Stock’s acquisition of the company, the industry saw an upswing in sales. Stock’s vision, and an increase in demand allowed the company to expand and deliver additional models to the marketplace, and to it’s growing base of customers. Over the years, the plants have expanded and the workforce numbers have increased. Cruisers now operates out of four plants in the Oconto area. Cruisers is in the enviable position of being able to take full advantage of a strong local work force with a great work ethic. The passion for their work is evident in the quality they produce. Cruisers Yachts has continued it’s rise through a combination of sharp attention to detail, a focus on quality craftsmanship, and an elegance in design. The Cruisers Yachts of today are instantly recognizable on the water, or in the stateroom. Hand craftsmanship is the hallmark of the brand today as it was in the beginning. So, the next time you’re on the water and you see a Cruisers yacht, give a nod to history and remember the Thompson Brothers, two boys with a vision, some lumber, and some water nearby.
You can see all the Cruisers Yachts models on display at www.cruisersyachts.com