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Legend Boats growing, but remains a family business

The Duhamels and Dewars, the founding families behind Sudbury’s Legend Boats, have been working together for nearly 50 years, and they show no sign of slowing down.
From left are Legend Boats stakeholders co-CEO Jamie Dewar, co-founder Carl Dewar, co-founder Victor Duhamel, co-CEO Marc Duhamel, and Innisfil store general manager Jeff Duhamel.

The Duhamels and Dewars, the founding families behind Sudbury’s Legend Boats, have been working together for nearly 50 years, and they show no sign of slowing down.

Over the past few months, the local boat manufacturer and retailer has been working on a major expansion at their Whitefish hub, anticipated to finish this fall, revealed a new logo, and developed a range of new products for the 2016 season.

On top of a rebranding and local office expansion in Sudbury, Legend Boats just opened a new retail outlet space near Montreal in an old marine dealership. This marks their third retail outlet, on top of their main outlet in Sudbury, and one opened 15 years ago in Innisfil.

“The last couple years have been crazy, with Montreal, the new headquarters and new software for better infrastructure,” said Jamie Dewar, who is co-CEO of the company with Mark Duhamel.

Jamie and Mark are the sons of the founders, Carl Dewar and Vic Duhamel, and the second generation businessmen are leading the recent changes.

However, the business has been continuously changing and adapting over the years, driven, they say, by curiosity and an entrepreneurial spirit.

“How they got into the business, is through things they were interested in,” said Jamie.

When Vic and Carl opened their first business in 1968, known then as Duhamel and Dewar, they were selling tires. What started off as a personal interest in RVs for camping soon led to research into starting a dealership in the North.

Jamie Dewar remembers that when Vic Duhamel went to the U.S. to visit the factory and learn more, he wound up selling the RV he picked up on the way home, launching their stint in RVs.

The two also enjoyed fishing, and in the 1980s came to the realization that many of the boats on the market weren’t equipped for the Northern seasons.

“We found they always missed the mark a bit for Canadians, they didn’t understand our climate, rugged terrain, rugged climate, and that we fish a little bit different,” said Jamie. “We saw there was an opportunity to build boats more designed for Canadian fisherman.”

They pair rebranded as Legend Boats in 1986 as a solution, and since 2000, has been exclusively dealing in boats, with a network of distributors across Ontario.

Alongside the more practical changes made recently with the new retail store and Sudbury expansion, Jamie said they’ve been refocusing attention on the less tangible aspects of their business.

“We’re focusing more on the culture, and we’re clear on the mission to create memories,” said Jamie. “We’re very fortunate to be in an industry where we can have a mission focused on creating memories for people.”

Jamie would know. He and Mark both grew up saturated in the culture of creating memories at Legend Boats.

“One of the biggest advantages of my father being a founder is that we always had access to any boat we wanted,” said Jamie. “Some of my fondest memories as a kid are geared around our cottage – you really do create some unforgettable memories out on the water and that’s really what drives us.”

Jamie said the current plan is to build on their existing infrastructure to get their three locations running smoothly, but he does anticipate more growth in retail and is always looking for opportunities.

While Jamie went into the family business right after graduating in 2005, he can’t say yet whether his children will follow in his footsteps. Mark has children in university, but Jamie’s are seven and four, and for now, he’s working on giving them the same memories he got when he was their age, when he can get a break from the expansions.

“We do have children of our own, and we’re actively involved in the boating lifestyle,” said Jamie. “Tubing, fishing skiing, we’re out on the water whenever we can be.”