Over the past four decades, the Port Townsend Shipwrights Co-Op has plugged, sanded, sawed, overturned, shielded, welded and generally worked to ensure that its clientele who place their ships in the capable hands of their artisans can be assured. that they will be well cared for.
Co-op president David “Griz” Griswold started with PT Shipwrights about 21 years ago. Griswold said the company’s unique approach to ownership might not work for all other businesses, but it has certainly created a healthy shipwright cooperative.
“In this cooperative model, which is sort of a worker-owner business model… it’s really mind-blowing how the cooperative has really succeeded, in the niche we’ve created,” he said.
The work of the shipbuilders ‘cooperative, Griswold explained, lent itself well to the organizational structure of a cooperative, and where others have tried to run their trades in the same way and have failed, the shipwrights’ cooperative in Port Townsend’s navy persisted and prospered. .
“I don’t know how successful we would be in other areas, there have been a number of [cooperatives] which continued, but many of them also closed.
Griswold said there were likely a number of factors that played a big role in the development of Port Townsend’s functional waterfront for four decades, including people drawn to the coastal city.
“A lot of interesting and creative people come to town and I think that’s really the key to a business, being able to be creative not only with what you do for your job, but also with the way you see your business. company.”
As the owners move on, there is no shortage of Shipwright’s Co-Op, and while Griswold said having so many ‘type a’ personalities in a room can lead to disagreements. ‘opinion, the structure of the company requires stakeholders to work through any issues that arise.
“We’ve been pretty selective about who we have as owners, so I think that has really helped,” said Griswold. “There are 12 of us owners now, and we have to work together. But the cooperative model forces us to overcome our differences and move forward and we grew up in that environment and it’s really great.
“We all support each other too,” added the president of the cooperative. “We’re all very helpful and supportive with each other, growing the business and helping each other in life and everything in between. “
“This environment, thanks to the cooperative, has created a really dynamic and positive environment and we try to pass it on to our employees, as a company as a whole,” he said. “Trying to make it as family-friendly as possible.”
Griswold stressed that a long list of regularly satisfied loyal customers is a key element in ensuring the continuity of operations of Port Townsend Shipwrights Co-Op. Even during a global pandemic, he says the phone rang for customers to come back hoping the people at the co-op would do some work. Griswold estimated that between 80 and 90 percent of the co-op’s business could be attributed to loyal customers.
It’s not just your average boaters getting help either, Griswold said, about half of the co-op’s income comes directly from the fishing fleet. In addition to regular maintenance and repairs, the co-op has recently worked to help fishermen adjust to new regulations for their respective fisheries.
In recent years, in particular, longline fishermen have been allowed to use cod traps instead of the traditional longline method when hunting black cod (sablefish) in Alaska. The new allocation was in response to the significant loss of fish due to whale depredation. In its efforts to make the switch, the cooperative was tasked with figuring out how to redesign and rig the boats to carry pots instead of the old longline equipment.
“We’ve modernized and often redesigned their entire system for them,” Griswold said. “We were really part of the design team, which was pretty exciting to see how fishermen can effectively fish in traps and get away from the longline.”
The Chairman said he hoped to see Port Townsend Shipwrights Co-Op become more involved in the design work and refitting of the fishing fleet for trap fishing in the future. But that’s not to say adventure-inclined boaters aren’t welcome, in fact recent measures taken by the Co-Op are specifically aimed at these sailors.
Over the years, Griswold has said that the Port Townsend Shipwrights Co-Op has partnered with Carol Hasse – owner of Hasse & Company Port Townsend Sails – to make blue water ready sails for their customers that can withstand the weight of long journeys. The Port Townsend Shipwrights Co-Op recently announced that they will merge the Hasse Company into their own organization to continue to provide customers with the same quality sails.
“I am delighted that Shipwright’s Co-Op is taking over the business I started in 1978 and continues to sail as part of our marine trades and working waterfront here at Port Townsend, ”Hasse said. “They will keep all of our employed sailboats – which are highly skilled and talented and who would otherwise be left behind looking for work.”
Hasse added that she plans to stay close and serve as a consultant to the cooperative if her years of expertise are needed in the years to come.
Griswold added that Hasse and his crew have made a name for themselves that extends beyond their attention to the finest details in the construction of sails.
“From our clients’ perspective… they really felt like Carol was going to take care of them no matter what,” Griswold said. “It’s really huge, if you’re a cruiser and you’re in a third world country and your sail doesn’t fit, they knew Carol would step in; they would make sure they got what they needed. I think it kind of comes with the quality, the assurance that if they had a problem the loft was there for them. I have heard this several times.
Griswold, reflecting on the milestone, thanked the Port Townsend community and those who have come to them to seek out the knowledge and skills of the tradespeople employed by the Port Townsend Shipwrights Co-Op.
“It’s just wonderful that we have been successful and have been able to grow as we did, while still keeping a community footprint and giving back to the community as much as we can – not just the trades community. the sea that we do business in – but also in our community in general, ”he said.
“We couldn’t have done it ourselves, everyone here really helped us.”