Sunsation’s Recipe for Flourishing in Tough Times

Sunsation’s Recipe for Flourishing in Tough Times

Sunsation's 40CCX; Joe Schaldenbrand (inset).

The Sunsation Powerboats factory is in one of those states with a total lockdown. But Joe Schaldenbrand, who is president of the Algonac, MI-based firm, is single-mindedly focused on not just surviving, but “doing great.”

“We have a governor who wants to rule with an iron fist, and she has everything locked down,” he says. “You can’t put a boat in the water, and you can’t go fishing—you can’t even go buy paint! But you can go to the liquor store, and you can go buy marijuana,” he sighs.

Schaldenbrand is determined not to let these things bring him down. His factory may be closed for the short range, but “we’re actually in a very good position,” he tells Powerboat Nation. “Since being shut down, I’ve been  coming in every day—I’ve been unloading trucks and have been calling every one of the customers who have a boat on order. Amazingly, I haven’t lost a single order. As a matter of fact, I actually sold a boat during the pandemic. Took a deposit and everything. So we’re doing very well.”

Sunsation’s employees are complying with state mandates, staying at home, but are collecting full pay. “I think they’re getting a little bit of cabin fever,” Schaldenbrand chuckles. “They want to come back as soon as possible, but at least there’s no hardship going around. Financially, we’re doing very well. And we’re doing well part-wise and order-wise. We just need the governor to ease up a little bit and hopefully by the end of the month we can be up and building boats again.”

Meanwhile, some of Sunsation’s vendors continue to stay active, including Mitcher-T, Sunsation’s custom painter, as well as various upholstery shops. “I’m a little discouraged that we’re not open, but I’m very encouraged to see that other businesses are progressing. We’re making the very best out of a bad situation. We’ve taken advantage of a downturn like you’ve never seen before.”

Sunsation currently builds three go-fast center consoles, including the 32CCX, 34CCX and 40CCX, the latter of which is its newest model. And though it may not the the ideal time to think about expanding the line, Schaldenbrand admitted that a potential new model might materialize in the foreseeable future to fill the gap between the 34 and the 40.

Perhaps a 36?

“Yes, it most likely would be a 36,” Schaldenbrand says. “It might end up being an updated version of the 34—I’m not sure we would do a 34 and a 36, but a 32, 36 and 40 sounds like a pretty good lineup for the future.”
As for the idea of going larger than 40, though, he highly doubts Sunsation will go that route.

“I don’t believe we want to do that,” he says. “I’m going to let some of the East Coast guys run with that stuff. We’ll probably keep it at the 40, because we’ve got a good market share with the numbers that we already have. My guys love building the 32s and 34s, and the 40 takes comparatively longer to build. It’s a big boat. Plus, the way our facility is set up, it’s perfect for the 40 and below. I’m going to let the other guys have that big-boat market.”