Tides Changing For Hampstead Boatbuilder

By Christina Haley O'Neal, posted Nov 16, 2018
Onslow Bay Boatworks co-owner Robbie Brown stands inside the hull of a boat that is being manufactured at the company’s base in Hampstead. Photo by Michael Cline Spencer
A Hampstead boat building company that makes semi-custom vessels is growing in the offshore and tournament fishing market.

Onslow Bay Boatworks, now located on Sloop Point Loop Road in Hampstead, is gearing up for an expansion of its product line and move to a new facility in Onslow County.

The locally owned boat manufacturer makes boats to customers’ specifications for those active in offshore fishing and fishing tournaments, adding all the bells and whistles, said Robbie Brown, co-owner of Onslow Bay.

Utilizing fiberglass manufacturing methods, the company has different molds to build its boats and hand assembles boat parts into a finished product ready for sale, officials said. The boats are made and assembled at Onslow Bay’s facility and go directly to the customer.

The company is majority owned by Brad Knight, who continued the boatbuilding tradition of his father. Knight began the company in 2006.

The boat manufacturer has 17 employees.

Brown, who joined the company in 2011 as an investor, became co-owner of the company in September 2016.

The company manufactures boats utilizing 27-foot and 33-foot molds. The company’s semi-custom products hit much of the East Coast, but most of the boats are sold in North Carolina.

A new 41-foot boat is being introduced to the company’s boat line this year. It will be the biggest model the business manufactures, with the first finished boat ready by December, Brown said.

The new model will propel Onslow Bay for an even greater push into Florida, Brown said.

And because of the boat line expansion and expected additions in the future, Onslow Bay is getting ready to purchase an 8-acre lot in Holly Ridge, that will allow the business to grow.

The facility is being planned as the first one for Camp Davis Industrial Park, a new park being developed in Onslow County, Brown said.

“We’re thinking the first of the year, January, when we’re actually going to start building,” Brown said.

The company plans on constructing a 50,000-square-foot facility, with room to expand both inside the building and within the acreage, he said.

“The building itself will give us a lot of room to grow and hire more employees. And the 8-acre lot itself will give us even more room,” Brown said. “We have outgrown what we have now.”

Onslow Bay Boatworks is currently operating out of about 17,700 square feet of space in three separate buildings.

The planned Onslow County space will consolidate the business’s operations and allow for a showroom, which the company currently does not have, Brown said.

In addition to the 41-foot boat that is being added this year, Onslow Bay has plans to add a 37-foot boat and a bay boat sometime after the completion of the new facility, Brown said.

“It will be at least a year before we start adding other boats,” he said. Holly Ridge town officials offered Onslow Bay an incentive grant of up to about $46,000, depending on projected jobs and capital investment.

In just a few years the company hopes to produce between 50 and 55 boats a year, Brown said. Currently, the company produces about 26 boats a year at its current Hampstead operation, he said.

“We’re looking forward to the move. I think it’s going to be good for everybody.”

Expanding Boat Lines

175 Sloop Point Road, Hampstead

No. of employees: 17

Year founded: 2006

Top local officials: Brad Knight, majority owner, and Robbie Brown, co-owner

Company description: Manufacturer of semi-custom center-console fishing boats

Products made locally: The company produces a 27-foot offshore edition center-console boat and a 33-foot tournament edition center-console boat.

Places of product distribution: The company operates a factory-direct business.

What made the company decide to make its goods locally? Brown: “Born and raised in this area, Brad’s dad used to build boats in this same building.”

What’s your target market? Brown: “Since we are a semicustom boatbuilder, we can … be flexible in various boating markets.”

What do you guys have planned next? Brown: “We’re building a new, larger facility in Onslow County. We are also adding a 41- foot tournament addition to our model lineup.”

EDITOR'S NOTE: To be considered for the Business Journal’s MADE feature, contact [email protected].
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