Herald Journal - Enterprise Dispatch - Delano Herald Journal
Family-owned company has been manufacturing docks for 43 years

June 29, 2009

By Kristen Miller
Staff Writer

DASSEL, MN - Brothers and business partners Brian and Brice Gillman are carrying on the family tradition of owning and operating the dock and boat lift manufacturing company, Porta-Dock Inc. in Dassel.

The family business began in 1966, when Robert Gillman, Brian and Brice’s dad, got an idea of making docks from a Popular Science article.

The article featured a make-it-yourself dock using steel roof rafters instead of a wooden dock with a wagon.

Initially, Robert, along with Mike Linder and Bob Regal of Dassel, were making their own products in a welding shop and the business grew from there.

“We’ve been running ever since,” Brian said.

Their dad had sole ownership of the dock manufacturing company until he passed away in the late ‘80s.

Glen Brodt of Eden Prairie was hired as the general manager and ran the company until the mid- to late-’90s, when he retired and Brian and Brice took over entirely.

Dock parts, boat lifts, and accessories

There are several varieties of docks to choose from, including the steel wheel-in, aluminum wheel-in, post docks, and the multi-dock with solid sides, as opposed to the truss sides found on the wheel-in docks.

The most popular of the dock varieties is the aluminum wheel-in with the removable aluminum decking, Brian said.

Floating docks are also an alternative for “fluctuating water conditions, mucky shorelines, non-uniform lake bottom surfaces, and deep-water areas,” as described on www.porta-dock.com.

There are four basic types of boat lifts including the cantilever, which lays back and raises up; the vertical lift, and manual or motorized winches for raising and lowering of the lifts.

Porta-Dock also makes accessories for docks and lifts including canopies, bumpers, ladders, and benches.

The vast majority – 80 to 85 percent – of the docks are made of aluminum with some powder-painted and galvanized steel.

Down to business

Porta-Dock employs 20 to 24 employees.

The shop and phones are fairly quiet this time of year, since docks and lifts are already in the water.

The busy time for sales is March through early June, and the busy time in the shop is November through July.

With the downturn of the economy, the dock business isn’t as busy this year as it has been. The past 15 years have seen sales drop about 8 to 10 percent, Brian said.

Though sales may be down a bit from last year, the business is doing well. Brian attributes that to the fact that the business is family-owned and operated, as opposed to a corporate setting.

The company, which goes through about a million pounds of aluminum each year, has seen a drop in prices from a year to two years ago, Brian said. He added that steel prices are still elevated, but those prices don’t affect them as much.

The dock and lift company relies on outside dealers for the sale of the docks.

There are dealers throughout Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, North and South Dakota, and even some in Michigan, Brian said.

The company does do some single orders as well as shipping direct to states outside the dealership area.

For more information, visit the web site, www.porta-dock.com. and to find a dealer.


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