Once a chef, Jory Schmeling has found niche as wooden boat builder
Posted on July 25, 2016
Jory Schmeling, 33, general manager of StanCraft Wooden Boats, works 50-70 hours per week selling, building and delivering custom wooden boats. (KATHY PLONKA firstname.lastname@example.org)
In one moment, Jory Schmeling is general manager of a wooden boat business. In another he is a gopher for said business.
Schmeling wouldn’t have it any other way. His journey to StanCraft Wooden Boats was unconventional to say the least.
He wanted to be a chef coming out of high school, so he set out for a culinary career.
Schmeling rose quickly in the restaurant business. He hired on initially as a dishwasher but was a line cook in three months.
By age 25, though, Schmeling had burned out. He was the head chef at a local restaurant but needed to get out. A former employee had hired on 18 months earlier at StanCraft and told Schmeling of an opportunity.
Schmeling, whose family has a history in custom home building, leaped at the chance. He started as a simple laborer but as is his wont, he climbed the ladder quickly.
“I started off as Joe Boat Builder,” Schmeling, 33, likes to say.
About five years into his new venture, he became the unspoken general manager at the business, then located in Post Falls. But by the time the company relocated late last year to Hayden Lake, he was the official general manager.
Not that a title means much to him. He shows up every day as if he’s going to jump on a half built hull and start sanding. His daily work attire usually includes shorts and comfortable short sleeve shirt – so he’s at the ready to lend a hand or consult on anything a short distance from the 11-foot by 11-foot office he occupies.
His office, located off the main 12,000-square-foot building bay, has a window through which he can watch some of his 40 employees work.
Schmeling wishes he could spend more time building. He estimates he gets his hands dirty about 10 hours a week. But his new position requires everything from giving tours of the plant to interacting with customers about their boats in progress.
About twice a day, one will find an opened can of Red Bull in Schmeling’s office. “I don’t drink it for the energy. I just think it’s the best-tasting beverage out there,” he said.
Take a stroll through any of the company’s three building bays and a strong smell of mahogany – the wood of choice – is present, usually stirred up by the use of sanders. At other times the strong scent of various epoxy resins permeates the air.
When Schmeling started with StanCraft there were 12 employees on payroll, including third-generation owners Robb and Amy Bloem. Eight years later, the staff has more than tripled.
Some of Schmeling’s personal tools are in a tool chest a few feet inside the main bay. He has a 60-year old plane along with a 50-year old plane, both handed down by his grandfather.
“Planing in general is one of my most favorite parts of the process,” Schmeling said.
He arrives at work each morning between 4:30 and 5 a.m. He tries to go home by 4 p.m., but most times he’s around until 6. He meets with his building crews when they roll in at 7 a.m.
By week’s end, Schmeling has worked are anywhere from 50 to 70 hours.
“My goal now that I’m general manager is to get my hours down to 40 to 50,” he said. “I don’t usually leave until we’re all done. I will never ask anyone to do anything that I haven’t done more than once.”
He spends the first hour of each day getting caught up on emails, voice mails and texts.
“I do what it takes to get the job done each day,” he said. “If it means my wife has to wait for me, that’s what happens. My job is the most important thing.”
His managerial skills are most needed outside the shops now as the business continues to grow.
“It was one of the toughest things for me to do – to come out of the shop and be behind a desk,” he said. “I’m a mover and a shaker. I miss the hands on stuff.”
StanCraft has built seven boats this year, with two more expected to be finished by year’s end. The building process is tedious. One boat can include anywhere from 3,000 to 5,000 man hours and usually takes nine months to build, Schmeling said.
The rich and famous buy them. StanCraft has built boats for summertime Coeur d’Alene residents Wayne Gretzky and John Elway, among others.
The cheapest boat is approximately $70,000. They’ve built boats costing as much as $1 million, Schmeling said. The average boat, he said, costs between $300,000 to $400,000.
When each boat is finished, Schmeling personally delivers the boats. They’re even building boats for people in Fiji and Thailand.
Schmeling probably should have known his career would end up in some kind of wood construction. His father, Forrest Schmeling, was a tugboat driver for 32 years on Lake Coeur d’Alene, pulling hundreds of logs at a time to former mills around the lake.
He works hard to play hard.
Schmeling spends his falls hunting elk. He’s put one in the freezer each of the last six years. He also spends time fishing. He and his wife – married 11 years – have no children. She also hunts and fish.
Born and raised in Coeur d’Alene, Schmeling has moved from the area a couple of times. But his compass has always brought him back to where he belongs.
Schmeling hopes to ultimately create a new position at StanCraft – director of operations.
“I see myself as a manager of managers,” he said.
But Schmeling never wants to wander too far away from where the action takes place on a daily basis.
“It’s in my bones,” he said of building. “I treat this facility as if it’s my own. Each week I talk with each employee at least once.”
Schmeling said wood boat building is becoming a lost art. He could think of just one other business, in Michigan, that’s devoted exclusively to building wooden boats.
All StanCraft boats have a lifetime guarantee for workmanship, which means Schmeling could be on an area lake or traveling out of state to fix a problem a customer finds.
“We ask a (pretty) penny for them but our service behind them is unprecedented,” Schmeling said.
He said that on any given day there could be anywhere from 50 to 60 wooden boats on Lake Coeur d’Alene.
Schmeling, who has personally been involved in the building 40 boats, spends time with each boat, from original design to completion. Tom Baldwin, who has been with StanCraft for 15 years, is the chief designer.
“We do everything by hand. Everything is two dimensional,” Schmeling said. “We don’t have CAD (computer-aided drafting).”
No two boats are the same, Schmeling said.
When a boat is completed, Schmeling wears an ear-to-ear smile.
“It’s beautiful to hand off the work these guys do,” he said.
Schmeling receives calls from many people seeking small repairs to fiberglass boats. If he can, he spends time helping people – usually on his time.
“Anything I can do to make people happy I’m going to do if I’ve got the time,” Schmeling said.
Tags: boats, jory Schmeling, outdoors, stancraft wooden boats, watersports