Trade Winds Campers, Inc.
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Don Craig and Carl Dretzke founded Craig Manufacturing in February of 1961 in Manawa, Wisconsin for the sole purpose of manufacturing camping trailers. Carl Dretzke was a local business man who was involved in many business adventures. One such adventure was the founding of the now famous Manawa Rodeo in 1959. They will celebrate their 50th anniversary this year (2009).
The first trailers were manufactured in a small 22 by 40 foot room at the back side of the Manawa Laundromat. 100 camping trailers were built this first year. Within 3 months of starting production they outgrew their small shop and relocated to Strum's truck garage while they constructed a new 9,000 square feet manufacturing facility on Depot Street in Manawa. In January of 1962 they moved in. Two additions between 1962 and 1967 gave this facility 20,000 total square feet.
In 1964 the firm incorporated and changed their name from Craig Manufacturing to Trade Winds Campers, Inc. Carl Dretzke served as President and Don Craig served as Vice President. Mrs Carl Dretzke served as the Secretary Treasure. That probably explains why the company's books were kept so well. Between 1962 and 1966 the company produced between 2000 and 3000 campers each year on average. Trade Winds was one of the largest producers of camping trailers during these years, coming in only after Apache and Nimrod.
Carl Dretzke understood the value of publicity and was a real promoter. Probably the most famous public event Trade Winds participated in was during 1965-1966 when Harold Stephens and Albert Podell took a Trade Winds Camper on an around the world expedition. It ended on October 25, 1966 when they arrived in New York City. This was the longest known auto-camper trip taken and now holds the distinguished honor of being the last expedition to go around the world due to global unrest. Trade Winds did a write-up of the story in their 1967 brochure. Harold Stephens and Albert Podell wrote a best-seller book of their adventures, Who Needs a Road?: The Story of the Trans World Record Expedition, published by Bobbs-Merrill in 1967. The book was republished in March of 1999. Follow the link above to read all about their adventures.
Trade Winds Campers produced their first hard-top camp trailer, the Catalina, in 1966. Carl Dretzke, William Brown, and Ted Niemczyk applied for a patent for this trailer on April 4, 1966 and was granted US Patent 3,367,708 on February 6, 1968.
Trade Winds began production of the Tiger and Cheeta snowmobiles in the summer of 1966. About 300 1967 Trade Winds snowmobiles were built. They also produced the Sno Squire for Agway Stores during this time period. Snowmobile production ended after 1968 under OMC's leadership.
It was during this time Outboard Marine Corporation (OMC) decided to expand into the camping trailer market. OMC announced the acquisition of Trade Winds Campers, Inc. on July 12, 1967. The purchase price was made for $230,000 worth of OMC common stock, or $1,413,000 in 2007 dollars. The annoucement came on the very same day ground was broken for a plant expansion providing another 16,080 square feet. At the time of the sale Trade Winds, Inc. employed 45 people.
By 1970 OMC's overall net sales had dropped. One problem was an unprofitable boat line. Another problem was the camping trailer line. OMC's expectations were never realized for Trade Winds Campers and the decision was made to discontinue manufacturing them in 1971. OMC continued using the manufacturing facilities for other production until the 1980's and ultimately ended their entire operations with bankruptcy in 2002. The Evinrude and Johnson lines were auctioned off to other firms and still exist today.
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