Herald JournalHerald Journal, Jan. 10, 2005

Boat cover business expands into Montrose area

By Liz Hellmann

An expansion of 7,000 square feet is just one of the reasons that prompted Duane Smith to bring his business to Montrose.

As a result, Canvas Works opened recently, specializing in the sale of boat canvases and other products.

“We make about 10 different products here,” Smith said, “but the main thing is boat canvas.”

Smith started his business in 1979 in Spring Lake Park, making it the second oldest top shop in Minnesota.

He moved the shop to Maple Plain in 1997, but came to Montrose in search of a better business environment. “We do very high quality work, and cover boats that have gone around the world,” Smith said.

Canvas Works is located on Highway 12 next to the Bayrischer Hof restaurant.

Inside the 10,000-square-foot warehouse, Smith and his partner and son, Duane Smith III, manufacture boat canvas, snocaps, and road armor bicycle bags, among other products.

“We’re more of a full-service shop than the other guys,” Smith said, “Everything we sell here we manufacture.”

Canvas Works is able to build canvases for boats 130 feet long, and awnings for trailers up to 60 feet long and 30 feet wide. “Just about anything that can be sewn, we do,” Smith said.

Smith also holds the patent on eight different items, including snocaps for snowmobile trailers, road armor bicycle products, and a device for pulling down awnings.

Although Smith has been running Canvas Works for more than 20 years, his experience began even earlier.

Smith learned how to construct different types of materials while he was in the Navy, and worked on preparing parachutes for pilots. His attention to detail has paid off in his profession as well.

“We do work for old boats, the kind of boats everyone loves and wants,” Smith said.

Smith does the interiors for antique boats that have been taken apart and put together again.

Work on these boats include picking the exact color and leather to carefully reconstruct them exactly the way they were sold years ago.

Such detailing includes using hand tacks instead of staple guns to fasten the leather interior.

A couple of boats Smith has worked on – a 1930 30-foot hacker craft, and 1941 23-foot triple cockpit Cris-Craft – have won awards in state and international shows.

Canvas Works also designs leather interiors for trucks and big transport trailers for NASCAR and the National Hot Rod Association (NHRA).

Despite the other areas of manufacturing Canvas Works participates in, the bulk of the business remains in boat canvassing.

“People can bring their boats to us, and we make it,” Duane said. Canvas Works, Inc. is open Monday-Friday, 8 a.m.-5 p.m.

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