Mid-Atlantic boatbuilder revamps its ‘niche’

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Annapolis Classic Watercraft has relaunched in a new location, with a new focus.

Owner Bill Donahue, who opened the business in 2002 in Annapolis, has relocated to Millersville, Md. In moving, he downsized from a 7,000-square-foot facility to a 2,000-square-foot boat shop in a "less nautical" area.

But, he tells Soundings Trade Only, "We're still standing."

For eight years, Annapolis Classic Watercraft has restored, built and sold classic boats, largely wooden boats. "I had a good degree of success. It's a very small, niche market, but we've done reasonably well," Donahue said.

The business, however, was hurt by the recession when some customers were unable to pay for restoration work Donahue had done. Also, he said, health problems took him away from his company for a few months.

However, Donahue said he's back in business and refocused.

Since it opened, Annapolis Classic Watercraft largely had been identified as a restorer of classic, mahogany runabouts. But Donahue has now decided to focus more on sailboats. Also, he's still building his own design - the Homewood Landing 24. Donahue said he has two in his shop and is looking into producing a fiberglass version.

In addition, he's pushing the concept of "reboats" - upgrading and modernizing classic boats - and is working on a Cape Dory Typhoon as a demo for the concept.

Also, Donahue continues to offer a cooperative workshop program in which, space permitting, people can use his shop to work on their boats.

"We're managing to survive in a very, very limited niche market and a very lousy economy under some very difficult and unexpected circumstances," Donahue said, joking that a friend told him he should change the company's name to Cockroach Boatworks because you can't ever get rid of cockroaches, or Annapolis Classic Watercraft.

"We're still standing," he added. "I think one of the reasons we're still standing is I try to be very flexible and agile."

— Beth Rosenberg



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