Van Dam Custom Boats - Discover the Van Dam Difference
There’s a sign hanging out on the shop floor at Van Dam Custom Boats, which reads “Mission Statement: To Build the World’s Finest Wooden Boats.” The sign itself is a thing of beauty, mahogany finished to a high luster and hand-lettered with 23 karat gold leaf like many of the transoms on boats that have left the shop over the years. The sign, and its quality, are reminders to all who see it that quality is not an abstract concept, but a product of details, and details of details, executed to the highest standards. That excellence is borne of diligence and care. Nothing here happens by accident. And it shows. From the long-range business plan to the weekly shop cleanup, every task is tackled mindfully, efficiently, conscientiously. It’s a philosophy that is embraced wholeheartedly by everyone on the sixteen acres—the in-house name for the sprawling campus of storage sheds and workshops shared by a service and storage facility… another venture under the Van Dam umbrella.
It comes as no surprise, then, that with such a strong work ethic at its foundation, Van Dam is starting to make waves among enthusiasts and connoisseurs the world over, despite having eschewed formal marketing for much of the company’s history. Instead, Van Dam has always trusted that quality speaks for itself, and square dealing with clients buys earnest word-of-mouth advertising. A recent escalation of marketing efforts and the addition of a dedicated sales team has elevated the brand at an unprecedented pace, albeit atypical of their unpretentious culture as a whole. But with forty-five years of quiet diligence under their belts, Van Dam is poised to become the darling of luxury consumers looking for a beyond-top-of-range experience.
Experience? In a utilitarian steel shed, in a small town in Michigan? Yes. Although boats are the company’s product, what they uniquely offer is an ability, and an eagerness, to work with their customers to produce a boat that is not only tailored to fit, but designed from the ground up as an extension of the owner’s personality. In a marketplace overflowing with luxury goods that conflate “custom” with “available in different colors,” Van Dam acts as curator of their clients’ most extravagant fantasies, lending their expertise to ensure that their clients’ ideas—often literally sketched on envelopes and bar napkins—coalesce into a whole that exceeds every expectation. Bespoke, a word now attached to water and as of late, Burger King, does not come close to describing the level of tailored excellence delivered with each launch.
The current build, 5-STAR, which is currently receiving its first layers of bottom planking is an excellent example. This project exemplifies not only Van Dam’s technical excellence as boatbuilders, but also the way in which clients can exert control over even the most miniscule details. At thirty feet, every inch of 5-STAR represents a collaborative effort between client and builder that nurtures every desire or “what-if” idea that comes to mind. Each idea is thoughtfully considered and regarded as a possibility while being incorporated into the conceptual design phase. This client has waited for the opportunity to build something truly special and is determined to take the precise level of detail and finish into the stratosphere. Details like digital switching, lighting, joystick control, custom metal components, performance, and even fender placement have been considered by the owner and the team at Van Dam. Every inch has been constructed by the hands of a Van Dam Craftsmen. Though this project is in it’s infancy, it is clear the client is looking to own a special boat among special boats. And to this client, the process of creating something truly unique is just as important as the product.
With the commissions currently underway, Van Dam is accepting clients that are willing to wait until at least 2027 for delivery. But discerning individuals know the score: a Van Dam boat isn’t a thing you buy, it’s a process you undertake. One worth waiting for.