End of an Era

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From left, Fred, Jr., Fred A and Kevin Scopinich at work on a classic wooden boat.

From left, Fred, Jr., Fred A and Kevin Scopinich at work on a classic wooden boat.

The Scopinich family has been building boats on New York’s Long Island for more than 80 years, starting with a Nassau County police vessel in 1938. The company moved to Hampton Shipyard in East Quogue in 1956 and after that produced more than 1,200 Columbia boats--the brand name they gave the boats after moving into the new facility. The family yard started with wooden boats and moved to fiberglass in 1970.

Earlier this month, 91-year-old Fred Scopinich, Jr., reached the difficult decision that a 25-foot white Columbia fiberglass cruiser sitting in a shed on the property would be the last boat the company will produce.

“I was going to keep the boat for myself,” he told Trade Only Today. “But I’m close to 92 years old and nobody wants to let me use a boat anymore.” The boat is for sale for about $165,000.

The yard built ferries, police boats and other commercial craft for local municipalities and during the war years, there were 80 employees building vessels for the U.S. Navy. Many pleasure models were sold to Mystic River Marina in Mystic, Conn., and famous East Coast families like the Heubleins and Gillettes owned Columbias.

During prohibition, Fred Jr., said the company also built a number of boats for rumrunners. “It was a busy, busy time,” he said. Hampton Shipyard also built Star class sailboats for local yacht clubs.

Hampton Shipyard will still remain open for service and restorations.

Hampton Shipyard will still remain open for service and restorations.

The company saw the demand for new boats fall off in 2010 during the recession.

Despite not building new boats, Scopinich, his son, Fred A., who is 64 and Fred’s son, Kevin, 32, will continue to run Hampton Shipyard, offering service for the company’s 120 customers.

In addition to the yard, Hampton Marine Center, run by Liz Scopinich, Fred A.’s wife, sells Release fishing boats.

Fred Jr. still comes in two hours in the morning and two hours in the afternoon—every day. He appreciates his grandson’s ability to work with new outboards and on modern boats, but he prefers to stick with the restoration of wooden boats. “I’m not a glass man,” he says. “I enjoy building the wooden boats.”

The yard, which has had a significant impact on the local economy for decades, is filled with pictures of the many boats the Scopinich family built over the years. Their customers came from all over the world—Tahiti, Venezuela and Greece—not to mention generations of Long Islanders owned Columbia vessels.

Fred Jr. said new-boat production peaked at about 20 boats each year in the early 2000s. “It has kind of faded for most small yards,” he says. 

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