CUSTOM CRAFT MARINE CO. INC. OF BUFFALO
A brief history by Norm and Sharon Dickinson
Like many companies, Custom Craft began as a hobby. In 1932, Buffalo native, H. Donald Canazzi, with his father, Anthony, expanded his hobby of boat building into a business that was later called Marine Mart.
Canazzi joined the Navy in 1941 and spent much of his free time drawing plans for various types of small boats. After being discharged in 1945, he resumed his boat building business, Marine Mart, at 1700 Niagara Street, the location of the former Commodore Perry Harbor. Marine Mart produced packaged or kit boats for sale and shipment to the do-it-yourself boat builder and was home to a 250 slip marina. Marine Mart kit boats were shipped all over the United States and to several foreign countries.
In the mid 1950’s, Canazzi began experimenting with fiberglass, molds and designs that the flexibility of fiberglass would allow. In 1956, Custom Craft Marine Co. Inc. of Buffalo was formed. Canazzi built his first fiberglass boat in 1958 and he experimented with split molds that would permit him to design more radical and efficient hull designs. In 1959 Canazzi concentrated on boats 15’ – 16’ long and developed the modified catamaran. At this time, Custom Craft has over 40 different models of fiberglass boats and 70 different wood boat kits.
Custom Craft became a publicly traded company in 1960 and had over 400 dealers worldwide and licensed Canadian and Spokane, Washington companies to produce Canazzi designed boats.
In 1961 outboard manufacturers (Mercury, OMC, Westbend and Eaton) introduced the inboard/outboard propulsion system and Canazzi incorporated these motors and drives in certain boat models.
In 1962 Custom Craft had three area leased plants at 1700 Niagara Street, foot of Sheridan Drive and 135 Watts, off of Tonawanda Street, with anticipated production of 1,400 boats a year and were shopping for a fourth plant.
In 1963, Nova Equity Corp. purchased majority control of custom Craft and moved all production to the former Owens-Illinois Glass Co. building at Northumberland and Kensington Avenues, which was owned by Nova Equity. By April 1964, Custom Craft reported booming sales with boats being exported to England, Germany, Switzerland, Italy, South Africa and Morocco. In August 1964 Custom Craft suddenly reports financial losses, closes its manufacturing plant and in September auctions its inventory. Custom Craft filed for bankruptcy in October.
MFG acquired the assets of the Custom Craft Marine fiberglass division in January 1965. It was MFG’s intention to build Custom Craft boats under their brand name but market conditions at that time did not favor expansion. It is believed that Canazzi’s brother-in-law took control of the wood kit boat division under the Clark Craft name that is still in business today and is located on aqua Lane, Tonawanda, New York.
(Composed from articles found in the courier express and Buffalo Evening News.)
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