By: Richard Crowder
The pleasure boat industry is chock full (no pun intended) of the most interesting of people -- hard working dedicated individuals and families who put their life savings and full-time energy to fulfilling dreams of creating the boats we know and love. These are their stories. Many of whom I have met and personally chatted with, and they are unequivocally focused and driven in the pursuit of their dreams.
Part 2- The Kuck Family & Regal Boats
In this Part 2 of this series, we explore the Kuck family of Regal Boats of Orlando, Florida, a family that put its heart and soul and life savings on the line to follow its dream.
Born in 1930 and growing up on the family farm in New Knoxville, Ohio, Paul Kuck learned early on about hard work and family values. Into his early twenties he started his own potato farming business, married his local sweetheart, Carol, but was then drafted to serve in post World War II Germany.
Upon returning from the war, Paul worked successfully in a few different industries and spent over a decade climbing the corporate ladder to VP of Sales and Marketing at a manufacturer of steel buildings. But, after being disillusioned with some work ethics encountered along the way, Paul and Carol pulled up stakes and moved on. Along with their three young children, their nest egg of $60,000, plus $20,000 each from two very close and lifelong friends, they headed to Florida to start their own business, not knowing exactly what it would be.
Paul stumbled upon some boat molds, thought that the boat business sounded interesting and enjoyable, so he and Carol decided then and there to start a boat company with close friends Gene Kandel and Clark Prudhon as investors. It was Orlando, Florida and it was 1969. They called it Regal Marine Industries, using a name they picked from a dictionary. They built twelve boats that first year. The first models included a 14-foot ski boat, 17-foot tri-hull, and a 21-foot cuddy cabin.
Using his inherent and acquired marketing skills the business grew, which necessitated a move into a larger facility in Orlando in 1971. But the energy crisis and short supply and rapidly increasing prices of gasoline in 1973-74 was nearly devastating to the young business. Paul and Carol pulled back and barely survived while other boat builders failed. They came out of the severe economic downturn more determined than ever to succeed.
In the early 1970’s, Paul and Carol’s two sons, Duane the eldest and Tim, three years younger, started working at the plant part-time, spending their Saturdays sweeping floors and doing menial tasks while learning the ins and outs of the business. In 1973 at age 18, Duane Kuck became a full-time Regal employee while continuing his college education. Later, daughter Pam would also join the business. Duane and Tim worked their way up through the company where today, Duane Kuck is President and CEO and Tim Kuck is Executive Vice President and COO.
Paul and Carol were immensely grateful to have survived the gasoline crisis and renewed their faith in their founding Judeo-Christian principles with a Mission Statement: “With God's help and a steadfast commitment to integrity, we will develop a team of exceptional people and relationships to provide exceptional customer satisfaction.” They also created a Statement of Vision: “Our vision is to pursue the ultimate boating experience while enriching lives and creating lasting memories along the way.” Both statements are inherent to Regal’s principles to this day.
In 1976, Regal shipped its first boat to an overseas market – Austria. In 1977, Paul saw the possibilities of expansion overseas and attended what is considered perhaps the largest boat show in the world in Dusseldorf, Germany. The exposure resulted in an importer for Regal boats in Germany, which was quickly followed by several European and Scandinavian countries, as well as the Middle East, Australia, South Africa, and Canada. In just three short years, approximately thirty percent of Regal production was being exported.
The 1980s and 90s brought expansion, sales growth, and an ever-expanding model line-up focused on quality, integrity, value, and customer service. The Commodore series of cruisers became winners in the marketplace. Along with other major family-oriented manufacturers, Regal added two high performance models to its lineup in the mid-80s. Regal also built twenty-two-foot single engine and thirty-foot twin engine Velocity boats under license. In my first poker run in 1989 in Georgian Bay, Ontario, I ran a brand new 30-foot Regal Velocity along with my son and the boat’s owner and it was one of the fastest V-bottom boats on the water.
Following Paul and Carol’s financial scare in the early 1970s, in 1989, Regal announced its commitment to being a debt-free company and has remained steadfast to that commitment ever since. In 1995, their multi award-winning proprietary FasTrac® hull design featuring a twin-step air entrapment bottom was revolutionary and produced proven performance and efficiency improvements to their runabout lineup. In 1999, Regal became one of the first boat manufacturers to acquire an ISO (International Standards Organization) 9002 certification, further enhancing its commitment to quality standards and ensuring that every boat is manufactured exactly the same.
As their lineup expanded to bigger and bigger cruisers and yachts, by the early 2000s Regal was still growing to meet demand. Although the management and direction of Regal was in the hands of sons Duane and Tim, both Paul and Carol maintained almost full-time involvement in day-to-day operations. At the same time, they devoted any spare time to giving back to both the community and to the marine industry with countless hours of volunteering and donations. Sadly, Carol Kuck passed away in the summer of 2005 followed by Paul a little over a year later.
Regal has now surpassed fifty years of building family pleasure boats. For 2021, they are offering 36 models of runabouts, surf boats, FasDeck® deck boats, cuddies, cruisers, and yachts from 19 to 42 feet. A full range of sterndrive, outboard, and pod-drive systems in both gasoline and diesel provides the necessary power as required. Over the years, Regal has amassed more than its share of industry awards and accolades for product innovation, quality assurance and customer satisfaction.
Regal maintains its commitment to family values, and following in the footsteps of brothers Duane and Tim, two of Paul and Carol's grandsons have worked their way up within the company. Jake Kuck is Regal North American Sales Manager, and Paul Kuck is Vice President of Product Development and Manufacturing. Regal is recognized as one of the largest privately owned and independent pleasure boat manufacturers in the world, and they boast over 200 dealers in 40 countries. They have produced over 75,000 boats in over 50 years of operation.
Following in their parent’s footsteps, both Duane and Tim Kuck and their wives, Cindy and Marie respectively, have been recognized for outstanding contributions to their community, to the marine industry, and to humanity. The vision and family values and the steadfast commitment of Paul and Carol Kuck remain firmly in place.
You can check out the rest of our Innovators in Boating Series below: