Houghton Lake Resorter, March 13, 2014
Spicer’s Boat City is celebrating 50 years of business at Houghton Lake.
It all started in 1962 when Spicer’s Furniture and Appliance in Cadillac decided to switch gears and enter the boat business. For the first time fiberglass and aluminum had been introduced to the manufacturing of new boats and began to replace the standard wood and steel construction that have been used for years.
Current Spicer’s Boat City owner Phillip Spicer’s grandfather, George Spicer, purchased an old lumber mill site on Lake Cadillac and built Spicer’s Marina, which included a boat harbor and dockage.
“The harbor is still utilized today,” Phillip said, “although the site of the marina is now a condominium complex.”
In 1964, George Spicer also purchased the Doherty Ford dealership on M-55 at Houghton Lake. The grounds consisted of just five acres at the time and included an old sawmill and lake frontage which provided space for a boat ramp.
Spicer’s Boat City opened in the spring of 1964 at this Houghton Lake location, run by Bob Spicer, George’s son.
Spicer’s in Cadillac began selling Corl fiberglass boats which were built in a cow barn in Nappanee, IN. The owner of the company started using “Clipper” nameplates, which have thought to have been left over from the Packard Clipper automobile company that had recently went out of business. The name Corl later evolved to “Clipper Craft.” At this time, Corl was deeply in debt and George Spicer decided to buy the company and start building “Clipper Craft” boats in Cadillac.
“Unfortunately the name had to change,” said Phillip, “There was another established boat company out west already using it, but my grandfather had just purchased a life jacket and flotation cushion company called Saf-T-Mate and that was the name that officially stuck.”
Saf-T-Mate was a very unique boat company as it manufactured not only the fiberglass boat but its own upholstery, convertible tops and windshields, which was extremely uncommon at the time.
The first boat lines Bob Spicer sold at the all new Spicer’s Boat City were Richline aluminum boats, Sea Fury fiberglass boats and, of course, Saf-TMate Boats.
“Many of the boats of the time had large fins like the cars of the fifties,” said Phillip, “plus in Cadillac they sold Sylvan pontoons which are one of our best selling pontoons today, 50 years later.”
Ski-Doo snowmobiles were added to the product lineup in 1966. An 8-horsepower Olympique sold new for $695. Soon after, Arctic Cat was added. In 1977, Arctic Enterprises, makers of snowmobiles was going into bankruptcy. Spicer’s lost thousands of dollars in unpaid rebates and credits but more than made up for it by purchasing a few hundred Arctic Cat Panthers, Cheetahs and Panteras that were sold, for the most part, in the crate.
Spicer’s was also able to purchase crate after crate of Arcticwear jackets, pants, gloves and helmets and turned Spicer’s into a big competitor in the gear business.
By 1975 Spicer’s Marine in Cadillac was extremely successful with the Saf- T-Mate boat line. Within that year, the Saf-T-Mate boat company was sold to Bill Winn Sr. and sons John, Bill Jr. and Charlie.
The first Four Winns boats were named “Four Winns by Saf-T-Mate.”
“The very first Four Winns boat was a 14 foot purple fishing boat built specifically for my grandmother Ann,” said Phillip, “and it is currently hanging on display with a dozen or so other vintage boats in John Winn’s classic boat house on Lake Charlevoix.”
“The Winn family, all four of them,” said Phillip, “went through some growing pains including a fire that destroyed the factory, but eventually created the great Four Winns brand that we know and still sell today.”
Spicer’s is widely known for their large selection, great value, and the experience of their employees. Having established innovative customer service programs such as their 24 hour technical assistance phone line, Spicer’s has been named several times as one of the Top 100 boat dealers in North America by Boating Industry magazine.
The Spicer family is proud of their support for the Houghton Lake area, its many organizations and charities, and their fifty full-time employees. Several Spicer employees have been with the company for over 20 years.
Throughout the years many boat brands have come and gone but Spicer’s Boat City remains strong.
“The last few years have been really good,” says Phillip, “we have sold boats and pontoons to so many great customers all over Michigan. Not to mention the hundreds of ATVs, side by sides, and snowmobiles we sell also. It’s great to hear the stories from the third generation of customers keeping the tradition alive by shopping at Spicer’s.”
Spicer’s Boat City is celebrating their 50th Anniversary throughout 2014.
“All our events, boat shows, beach parties, demo events, all are going to have a different feel this year,” says Phillip, “we are excited to be part of the Houghton Lake community, we appreciate all of our customers, and we’re excited for the future.”
Spicer’s Boat City is a Marine Industry Five Star Certified dealership located at Houghton Lake. They can be reached at 366-8400 or at www.spicersboatcity.com.