It’s been the Schrock family’s business almost since the year that water was invented. From father to son to son — from 1903, when it was called the Star Tank Company, to the present — Starcraft Marine has been providing waterborne happiness to boating and fishing enthusiasts from coast to coast. The Topeka, Ind.-based company is considered the vanguard of the boating industry, and is celebrated for its excellent workmanship, for its broad product line and for its innovations.
Starcraft Marine, in fact, built the very first metal fishing boat. If you have ever had to pull a 14-foot wooden runabout off the roof of a station wagon, you will enjoy a grand appreciation of aluminum. It was way back near the turn of the last century that Starcraft had metal fishing boats coming off its production lines, and it was the first company ever to produce a metal rowboat. In 1940, it introduced the first galvanized steel rowboat. In 1950, it launched the first gull-wing hull design for the boating public. Later that decade, Starcraft marketed the “Aluminum Tub”; despite having a name of questionable connotation, the craft was a commercial success. Throughout the ensuing years, Starcraft continued with its innovative manufacturing and marketing activity, bringing out the first outboard and stern-drive aluminum “big-water” boat, torsion-beam construction and countless other firsts.
Catch of the Day
Today’s Starcraft markets three distinct kinds of small boats. The company’s fishing boats bear the familiar names of Pro-Elite, Islander, Superfisherman, Fishmaster, Starcaster, Supersport and Starfire. The company began as a fishing-boat manufacturer whose employees all loved to fish; today, fishing craft is still the largest of its lines. There’s a saying around Topeka that if there is anything the people at Starcraft love to do more than building boats, it’s fishing from them.
Starcraft has a line of fiberglass boats that, in terms of quality and performance, are second to none. The Nextar, Expedition, Aurora deck boats and Fish & Ski boats lead this field. With the choice of outboard or stern-drive power, Starcraft fiberglass hulls skim the surface with ballerina lightness, even with the drag of multiple skiers cutting through the wakes.
The third line reflects a relatively new boating activity. Pontoon boats have gained in popularity over the last few decades, offering safe, family fun in fresh water. The Starfish, Saturn and Orion are the models of choice for those who prefer the leisurely serenity of lake-based relaxation.
The Comforts of Home
In addition to the three kinds of hulls, Starcraft makes a broad array of options and accessories to enhance the enjoyment of the boat-owning public, to protect the passengers and the equipment from the elements, and to make its boats more transportable. The one-piece, molded-fiberglass sink available on many models affords a quick hand-wash after lunch and after launch. Some models can accommodate an onboard couch that converts to a comfortable bed for tanning, sleeping or recovering from the effort expended in landing that record-breaking small-mouth bass. Other models can be outfitted with a ski-tow bar that helps keep the tow rope out of harm’s way. The pontoon boats can also be equipped with a camper enclosure.
Canvas protects the boats and boaters from rough weather and hot sun. Bimini tops provide shade and shielding from the elements. Tonneau covers forward, and cockpit covers aft, afford protection while the boat is docked or while it’s being trailed. The company also supplies complete boat motor-trailer packages exclusively using EZ Loader trailers. The Pro-Elite custom trailer allows for underwater illumination during the launch and a swing-away tongue for easy garage storage, which cuts the length of the required storage space. Trailers, by the way, can be color-coordinated to match the boats they carry.
Starcraft’s marketplace is as varied as its product line. With the aluminum fishing-boat line as the core, the company is steering toward increasing its market share in that arena. The recently redesigned Fishmaster, Superfisherman and Pro Elite models testify to the emphasis in creating a resurgence in that market. The fiberglass- and pontoon-boat marketing effort is concentrating on the baby boomers. They are at the age and income level in which boating can be touted as a pleasurable, family-oriented activity. As their discretionary income increases, so may their interest in boating and in Starcraft boats.
Starcraft distributes its products through a nationwide network of company dealers. Attracting dealerships seems easy for the marketing executives at Starcraft. Unquestioned quality, comprehensive warrantees and a century of boat-building excellence are the attractions.
All production takes place at Starcraft’s Topeka site, with its nearly 400,000 square feet of manufacturing floor space. There, skilled craftsmen — a large part of the 400-strong work force — design, develop and assemble the products that bear the Starcraft badge. A strong feeling of family pervades the facility, and so it should because Starcraft is family- owned. Doug Schrock, the grandson of the founder, and his sisters took over the control of the company in 1996.
The sense of community is present throughout the organization. It is a company of strong family values. Always was. Always will be.