G. Brunatti and Sons liked Cygnet Marine Upholstery boat seats so much they bought the company. Well, almost. In November, 2002, Brunatti's purchased the name and assets of Cygnet Marine Upholstery after learning that owner, Ray Comeau, was retiring.
As a customer, purchasing boat seats from Cygnet for the past 10 to15 years , G. Brunatti and Sons Ltd. was well aware of the company’s wide-spread reputation in the marine industry - and they liked the product. After their initial disappointment at losing the company as a supplier, Brunatti’s considered purchasing the Cygnet name and assets as a logical expansion of their own marine upholstery operation in Parry Sound. Brunatti’s had not made boat seats on-site for approximately ten years and never on a mass-production scale.
"He had a high quality product and had refined the process," explains John Brunatti, part-owner of the local company. "He’d done everything - he made the patterns and jigs for the seats - and it’s the patterns and jigs that you can’t buy, They take time to develop and make.
"We determined he had taken the process as far as it could go or anyone could take it. And that’s what we really needed."
Having the patterns and jigs for Cygnet’s five basic seat models, in a choice of ten colours, would enable Brunatti’s to mass-produce the seats, a far more cost effective endeavour than small scale custom work.
Last spring, Mr. Comeau forwarded notice of his retirement to customers. The 30-year old company, once located in London, Ontario, in a building the size of G. Brunatti and Sons, was phasing down. Comeau was able to run the operation from his home, providing five seat models in a combination of ten colours, and filling orders from the west coast to the east coast which arrived by mail, fax and e-mail. He also had some ‘walk-in’ customers.
This streamlined method of conducting business appealed to Brunatti’s and seemed readily transferrable to their Parry Sound operation.
"This was the kind of product we were interested in," says Mr. Brunatti.
"It’s not location relevant," he explains. It’s a complementary business to our own and it will also add a different colour to our business."
As part of the deal, Brunatti’s bought the client and supplier list. Initially, their primary focus will be tapping the Ontario market, promoting the seats through a mail-out to 200 dealers. Brunatti’s clients will be included on this list as well as Cygnet customers This mail-out will be conducted by the end of March, and beginning of April when the marine industry is beginning to open up.
In the meantime, woodworking production for the seats is well underway at Brunatti’s. Mr. Comeau spent three days training Dave and John Brunatti and a couple of employees at the Parry Sound shop, with the various patterns and jigs.
"Once the summer comes, we won’t have time to do all the woodworking, so we try to do all the woodworking in winter," says Mr. Brunatti. Much of the woodworking in three of the models is standard. Although the height of the boxes varies, the width and length of the box is the same. Sport models are made with tub seats which are purchased and covered by Brunatti’s. The seats are referred to as Cygnet Marine Upholstery by G. Brunatti and Sons. "He had a good reputation in the industry that we want to keep," says Mr. Brunatti, explaining: "You can walk into (a hardware store) and buy this type of seat, but it’s the difference in quality you’re looking at. You can buy a lesser grade product out there."
The impact of the new business on local operations at Brunatti’s remains to be seen. "We’ve managed to accommodate it within our four walls now," says Mr. Brunatti, explaining that a wood shop and line table have been added within existing facilities at the local plant. Existing staff, previously laid off in the winter have been busy working on the seats in the wood shop. As well, once the marinas open and orders come in, the company does anticipate hiring more staff, and a couple of additional sewers have been lined up.
Mr. Brunatti is quite optimistic and
excited about the new venture and its impact for G. Brunatti and Sons.
The company anticipates a great deal of interest from the ‘replacement’
market. "The person who has had a boat for 20 years - and it’s still in
good condition but wants to revitalize the interior - can order these
seats," Mr. Brunatti explains. "Cygnet Marine had a real niche. There’s
very little out there for ordering this kind of product over the phone,
or through mail order or just walking in the door."