posted February 15, 2010

Lecture to Feature Yacht-Builder Leon Slikkers

Leon Slikkers, founder of S2 Yachts, will present the address "Fifty Years of Making Fun" on Thursday, March 4, at 4 p.m. in Winants Auditorium of Graves Hall through the Meijer Lecture Series at Hope College.

The public is invited.  Admission is free.

Leon Slikkers started at Chris-Craft in 1946, making cabin tops in the joiner department. In the early 1950s, he began building 14-foot runabouts in his garage after work.

In 1954, he registered the Slickcraft name, and the following year he left a promising career to open his own shop and fulfill his dream at the age of 27. He sold his house and started a small factory on Washington Avenue in Holland.

Slikkers began experimenting with a new material, fiberglass, in 1955. Within three years, the company put a few of the boats into production and by 1963 had stopped building with wood.

In 1969, Slikkers sold Slickcraft to the AMF Corporation. He stayed on as president to head up three AMF companies (including Slickcraft), but eventually realized that the large corporation's business principles did not match his own and left after four years.

He started over in 1974, building sailboats under the name S2 Yachts. Within 10 years, S2 was one of the top five sailboat manufacturers in the United States, known for building quality cruising vessels and racing boats. Gradually the company began producing high-quality power boats called Tiara Yachts, and phasing out the sailboats. S2 Yachts then constructed a second facility in Ft. Pierce, Fla., and, in 1977 added Pursuit to its product lineup. In 1983, S2 Yachts purchased the Slickcraft brand name from AMF, and the following year Leon Slikkers became chief executive officer and David Slikkers was named president.

The Meijer Lecture Series, which debuted in September 2008, is an endowed lectureship established through the support of the Meijer Foundation.  Coordinated by the Joint Archives of Holland, the annual lectureship highlights the experience of area family-owned businesses that have had a historical impact on West Michigan.

Graves Hall is located at 263 College Ave., between 10th and 12th streets.