Q&A: With new owners, Warrior set to battle on

Warrior boats was one of the brands that didn't make it through the recession, but four Midwest businessmen have decided to revive the company.

The principals behind the re-launch are Chuck Barth, owner of Tamarack Kennels; Dave Anderson, a pro walleye angler; Joe Hellerman, former owner of Melrose Marine and Sports and a former Warrior dealer; and Al Leinen, co-owner of St. Rosa Lumber Company.

The diverse group of new owners plans to build Warrior’s six top-selling models and have others available on special order, with boats ready for shows in December. Below is a Q&A with two of the new owners, Joe Hellermann and Chuck Barth.

A lot of industry insiders believe the boating business has too many boat brands. Why does it make sense to bring back the Warrior brand?

Hellermann: Warrior was an established brand before, a very well recognized brand, very good quality, very well respected. And obviously we think they had something. There’s a lot of other brands that are going after that market since Warrior stepped out.

Barth: There seemed to be a lot people who were very interested and concerned that it was gone, and they were basically asking to bring the boat back in a roundabout way.

Market conditions are still pretty challenging. Why is now the right time to bring Warrior back?

Hellermann: We think the economy is probably close to bottoming out. With that people will probably start spending some money. And other companies have been doing quite well this past season. So I feel it’s an opportunity to bring it back with some success and not bring it back on the downhill spin.

How will Warrior stand out in the crowded fishing boat market?

Hellermann: Well, a number of features they have. Probably No. 1 is their tiller market. Being able to offer the steering system as well as the higher horsepower that’s needed for those size boats and boats running in those conditions. Other than that, the hull design, the ride quality. We thought Warrior had a lot of offer the market.

Has a location for the new factory been selected yet?

Barth: We’re zeroing in on a couple of locations and we should know within the next couple of weeks.

You've brought together a diverse group of owners: a cattle rancher, a pro angler, a lumber company owner and a former marine dealer. How did you come together to make the purchase?

Barth: We all fish, we’ve all previously run Warrior boats, and we’ve all been friends for a number of years.

Hellermann: I think the main hub was our fondness for the boat. Other than that, we’ve all worked together at the dealer level and at the sportshows. And Chuck and I are actually neighbors, so we’ve known each other all our lives.

When did the conversation start getting serious about making this a reality?

Barth: About a month after it closed. (Laughter) Actually, there have been a few guys who were into it longer than others. I kind of came on later on after we found out we could purchase the assets, after the banker that was holding it was more willing to negotiate.

Will your different backgrounds influence the direction of the new company?

Hellermann: Oh definitely. All the diverse backgrounds I think will make us stronger. We all see things at different levels.

How are you dividing up the workload?

Hellermann: Some of us will be more active in the day-to-day business than others. Of course, some people are more strapped down with their professions. There will be some that are actually a silent partner and others that are more day-to-day active.

Barth: Everyone at this time has their share in what’s going on. Some are dealing with where we’re going to put the factory. Others are dealing more with business and others are more promotional. 

How will the products you bring to market compare to what was offered under the brand in the past?

Hellermann: To be quite honest with you, we’re not going to do any big changes. We don’t think big changes were needed. Warrior had a great boat. They did do a lot of deck changes in the past few years before the closure. The only things we’re looking to change are small things.

Barth: Cosmetic things.

Will anything about the brand's philosophy change?

Hellermann: We feel there’s room for it to grow. We feel there’s some untapped avenues. You know as well as I do that our first couple of years are going to be challenging. So we’re not going to throw out a lot of changes or new philosophies. But there will be some in the future.

Why should dealers consider carrying the Warrior brand?

Barth: I suppose No. 1 is the quality. Warrior always ran on the quality of the boat.

Hellermann: They fit a niche market. There’s a lot of dealers who have room for that niche that aren’t really hitting that. They might be covering the aluminum side pretty well, they might have the sport boat market. When Warrior came in for me as a dealer, they weren’t a big hitter as far as numbers, but there were good margins on the boats. Good quality, a good following. The programs they offered didn’t lock you down with big inventory numbers. That’s kind of where we’re at.

So you’ll be taking that same approach?

Barth: Yes.

Is there anything else you'd like our readers to know about the re-launch of Warrior?

Hellermann: The main thing I’d like to share is that they’ve been very well accepted coming back. All of our dealers that we’ve contacted, or that have contacted us, are all willing to come back. They’re excited about the product.

Barth: Plus we’ve had a lot of dealers who weren’t dealers beforehand contact us. So it shows in my eyes that the product is good. It’s something out there that they want.

Hellermann: Especially farther away dealers. Warrior hadn’t really spread its wings in the past very far, and there’s a lot of potential out there.

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