Although Oklahoma is arguably best known for its oil fields and college football teams, one boat manufacturer is making a strong case for itself as the next big thing to come out of the Sooner state. Roger and Pam Parks founded Parks Manufacturing over 20 years ago and have made a name for themselves by building high-quality fiberglass bay boats from their Blue Wave line. But it's what they've been up to lately that is earning them a lot of positive feedback in not just Oklahoma, but in the boating industry as well. With the release last fall of its Silver Wave line of pontoon boats, Parks Manufacturing is thriving while some builders are just trying to maintain during the slower economy. For the Parks, the timing of the release worked out just fine.
"We joke that now that we're getting older with a little gray in our hair that the name Silver Wave made the most sense," says Roger with a smile. "Some questioned our timing of releasing the new line, but we've continued to see steady growth each month."
Because quality, value and outstanding craftsmanship continue to be key goals for this Oklahoma-based manufacturer, the Parks teamed up with Bill Nickell and his family, who have over 25 years of pontoon building experience, to help produce this new line.
Although some famous individuals have come out of Oklahoma like Jim Thorpe, Brad Pitt, Garth Brooks and Mickey Mantle, just to name a few, the Parks, as a family, have had their share of the spotlight, especially when it came time to relocate their facility.
After years of adding on to their shop in Checotah, Okla., the family decided it was time to build a new state-of-the-art manufacturing facility. They searched surrounding areas and even looked at leaving the state in hopes of not only finding the land to build a new facility on, but to have a quality workforce available in the region they selected.
The family was getting close to making their final decision when city officials from Seminole, Okla., contacted Pam to come meet with them and review their proposal. Satisfied with their options at the time she hesitated at first, but then decided to hear them out. But unlike other places where only a few people would be involved with the proposal, the people in Seminole made it very clear they were wanted.
"Not only was the mayor
there, but practically the entire
town came out to welcome us," recalls Steven Parks, the vice president of sales and son of Roger and Pam. "We're talking the police staff to the football coach, it was obvious they wanted us to be a part of their community."
The city of Seminole made the Parks family feel welcome and the decision to relocate was an easy one. And city officials did everything they could to help make the move easier too, including helping the Park's current employees from the old shop in Checotah find housing closer to the new location in Seminole that is roughly 80 miles west. Pam also played a critical role in making sure all of their employees found homes near the new facility.
In the fall of 2010, the Silver Wave Pontoon line was officially launched and shortly after, Steven began looking for dealers to help sell the boats that were now being manufactured.
"Steven brought a boat by for
us to look at and we liked what we saw," recalls Mike Baumgardner, who is the co-owner of the Fun Boat Store in Norman, Okla., with his father Al. "We ended up taking them to the Oklahoma City Boat Show in January and sold four during the show and four after."
Mike and Al knew the Parks were new to the pontoon industry, but because of Blue Wave they knew the family and were happy to become a dealer for them.
"The biggest factor is that it's a local company," says Al. "Being a small business, we like to do business with other local businesses because we like to support local people."
THE Fun Boat Store
Selling the new line has been a huge boost to this dealership that first started out as a repair shop. The Baumgarners started as a repair business 13 years ago, but has been selling new boats for nearly four years now.
"Our business started after dad bought an old Chris-Craft and sank it," says Mike. "Dad said he could fix it up and he had fun doing it. Then he started fixing up other boats to sell and ended up making a repair business out of it. As we got bigger, becoming a dealership was the next logical step. I pushed Dad into the dealership and Dad pushed me into Silver Wave."
Those business decisions, or "pushes," helped pave the way to a successful business that the Fun Boat Store has become.
"Silver Wave is now our main line after outselling our other pontoon lines 10 to one," says Al. "A big factor is Oklahomans like doing business with local people." Plus they're the only builder that we're aware of that will do custom boats and they're happy to do it, including custom length."
From the 20-foot "Fish and Play" to the 23-foot "DCA" model, each boat that rolls off the Silver Wave line is built with the quality that consumers have come to expect from Parks Manufacturing.
"We use all marine-grade stainless components, upholstery and carpet," says Steven. "We produce our upholstery from our in-house department and have the best welders in the business."
Silver Wave also does a 40-point final quality check and uses built-in test tanks inside their facility to check the pontoon before it leaves. Roger and Pam's oldest son, Richard, oversees the shop, but he is best known for his creativity and ability to work with fiberglass. The helm stands, fish boxes and all other fiberglass work that is onboard the Silver Wave pontoons has evolved because of Richard's talents.
Also included in the family business is Roger's brother Greg, and together the Parks family has used all their talents available to keep this company growing. And being family-owned is a big advantage in the eyes of at least one of their dealers.
"They are incredibly receptive to our ideas," says Mike from the Fun Boat Store. "You don't have to jump through hoops when you have a question. You can talk to the guy building the boat to get your answers, and as an Oklahoman who likes to buy Oklahoma goods, I like that if there is a problem I can talk to someone. The Parks are a nice family in general and are great people to work with."
Moving forward, the future looks positive for the Parks family as well as the new Silver Wave line of pontoon boats. Keep an eye out on the water for these high-quality pontoons that are built in Oklahoma as you're sure to start seeing more and more of them as this company continues to grow.