The Gibson houseboat legacy has entered into the next chapter of its life as the once family-owner company has been passed on to another family of boating enthusiasts. In March (2017), Kelly and Pam Cawthorne, along with their son Shane and his wife Danielle, purchased the rights to manufacture Gibson fiberglass houseboats.
Gibson boats was started by William C. Brummett in 1968, through Brummett’s houseboating experience back much further than that. By 1990, the company had built more than 6,000 boats and that number just kept increasing until the company was hit hard by the 2008 recession.
Even though they went out of business in 2013, you would still be hard-pressed today to find a houseboat marina that didn’t have at least a few Gibsons floating among the slips. For more than 40 years, Gibson Boats produced a hybrid cross between a houseboat and a cabin cruiser and thanks to the Cawthornes from South Dakota, the Gibson tradition and boating legacy will live on.
Gibson Owners First
In 2012, Kelly and Pam purchased their third Gibson houseboat, which was a show boat that ended up being the last production model built in the Tennessee facility. Two years ago Kelly and Pam started showing some interest in acquiring the Gibson company and on March 1 the deal was finalized.
“I’ve had two years to really think about it so I have a lot of ideas about what we’d like to change, plus I’ve been listening to feedback from other Gibson owners for longer than that,” said Kelly. “We want to refine the Gibson line and modernize it.“
Just weeks after acquiring the company, the Gibson plant, including all molds, tools, parts and manufacturing equipment, was successfully relocated from Portland, Tenn., to Tea, S.D. The Cawthornes have hit the ground running and are eager to get started.
“We’re going to offer a full production line, but mainly focus on service, fiberglass repair and refurbishing,” said Kelly. “We’ve refurbished houseboats prior to this so that’s what we really want to establish as we get started.”
The family has a history of rebuilding boats in the past as well as successfully running heating and air conditioning companies.
“We have a strong mechanical, electric and plumbing background and I’ve been a boater my entire life,” said Kelly. “My son Shane has the same love for boating and that’s why I wanted to go into business with him.”
courtesy of houseboat magazing