One night as I watched an intense game of Texas Hold'em from a distance, I couldn't help but relate our industry to what was being played out on the table. Hey, blame it on my day job, but houseboating is always on my mind.
In just a short amount of time our industry has gone from the highest of highs to the lowest of lows. Relating this to the card game, large manufacturers like Somerset and Fantasy a few years ago were like those high rollers that seemed invincible and not capable of going out of the game. They've got a pile of chips neatly stacked in front of them and a fat cigar they could have lit with a hundred dollar bill. But after a few bad beats, maybe some bad or emotional decisions, they find themselves out of a game even though no one thought was possible. Sadly, when a manufacturer falls, it's not just the owner, but it's the workforce and at times even the local community that suffers as well.
For other manufacturers it's about knowing when to fold or to lay low on a hand so you can survive another day. It's all about staying in the game and watching and waiting for the right time to go all in with a chance to rake the chips. Life is a gamble and just like the card business there are no guarantees.
Back in November as our December issue was being printed and mailed with our FunTime feature on the cover, we learned that this popular builder had indeed busted and walked away from the table. There had been some speculation, but we were waiting on the official word. For all those directly tied into this loss, it truly breaks my heart to see another solid builder fall because of the down economy.
So what does all this mean to you, the consumer, as we head into 2011? It means if you're in the market to purchase a new custom houseboat, lady luck is on your side. Those manufacturers that are still in the game, including those we've highlighted in our biography section in this issue, are ready to fight and compete for your recreational dollar. The days of being on a six- to eight-month waiting list just to get started are over. The days of being discouraged because a builder didn't have the time to explore your unique ideas to perfectly customize your dream boat are behind us. These manufacturers not only want to work with you, they need to work with you in order to continue posting blinds, hoping for pocket aces.
If you haven't already, start making plans to attend our 2011 National Houseboat Expo in Louisville, Ky. this March. Even if you think you're still a few years out, it's good to start early and figure out what you're looking for. It may surprise you when you start talking to these builders and the prices they're offering these days. Who knows? You may be getting that new custom houseboat sooner than you expected.
Those that we've included in this issue are standing strong and have made the right decisions to keep themselves in this game. So go ahead and pull up a chair and bet big on the houseboating industry, there's nothing quite like showing your royal flush.