The owners of LaveyCraft, one of the oldest and most respected surviving muscleboat builders, has sold and vacated its facilities in Corona, CA, as CEO Chris Camire ponders the future of the company. Camire, who has owned and run Lavey for 23 years with his brother Jeff, will be taking over all aspects of the firm now that Jeff has announced his retirement.
The move merely represents a road bump in the inspiring Lavey story, which began in the 1950s. Industry pioneer Al Lavey launched the company with a line of wooden hot boats, which quickly gained a national reputation for being stout and fast. During the late 1960s and ’70s, LaveyCraft amassed a succession of class championships in drag, SS, SK and E class runabouts throughout the country. In the the ’70s, as boating public grew, so did the average size of a boat.
During the mid ’70s, Jeff Camire began his career taping gelcoat paint jobs during his summer vacations while attending college in Southern California. Soon he was performing total gelcoat paint jobs and was spraying 3-4 complete boats a day. In 1991, when Lavey went up for sale, Jeff called his brother Chris—who at the time was a top rigger at Eliminator Boats—to see if their dream of a partnership in the marine industry could take form. The combination of talent would prove to be a total winner. Jeff was a master at in-dash mold graphics and exciting color combinations, while Chris excelled in quality and meticulous rigging duties of all kinds of different boats.
Together, the Camires virtually revolutionized Lavey, introducing bigger and faster boats with state-of-the-art designs, including the NuEra line, which impacted the industry in a major way; later, with the introduction of the Evo line, the Camires once again redefined modern poker-run styling with its innovative step-hull design.
But like many others in the muscleboat industry, LaveyCraft felt the crippling grip of economic hard times during the last decade. “Jeff and I have worked very hard on our products, but we’ve also taken a devastating financial hit—not only on us personally, but it’s impacted our families as well,” Chris says. “It’s been very difficult, but we’ve hung on because of our pride in the industry and the pride we have in our products. After a lot of soul-searching and heart-to-heart talks, Jeff has decided to retire.”
The quickest and most effective way to ease some of the Camires’ debt has been to sell their real estate and facility in Corona—a move that happened last week. According to Chris, his long-range goal will now be to downsize, transition to a smaller building and regroup. All of Lavey’s molds and equipment are currently in storage and in his possession.
“I still have the passion, and a lot of contacts and great people behind me,” he told Speedboat. “I want to take care of my clients and provide service wherever possible. I’m also currently venturing into other fiberglass components in the off-road industry (i.e., Can-Am and RZR side-by-side vehicles), which will help me keep LaveyCraft financially viable. I’m open to anything—we can manufacture pretty much whatever we want to, so I’m not ruling anything out for 2015 and beyond.” He pauses and adds: “We’ve owned Lavey for 23 years, and I want to own it for another 30 years. That’s my goal.”