In 1977, in a home-built garage in the back woods north of Harbor Springs, Michigan, Jean and Steve started what is now known as Van Dam Custom Boats. Steve trained as a wooden boatbuilder in the early 1970s with one of the pioneers of epoxy and wood boat building in North America.  The early years were lean but hard work and stubbornness helped them persevere and opened doors at opportune times. As years passed, the family and company moved to Boyne City to accommodate their growing needs. Hard work, continuous improvement, integrity, and family became their foundation and modus operandi in business and in life. 

While Jean and Steve continued to raise their family and grow their business, they stayed true to their principles and remained committed to the evolution and progression of their craft. As wooden boatbuilding continued to become recognized as a fine craft and niche expertise, Van Dam Custom Boats’ regard and reputation within the boating community also began to grow. Through the years, the challenge to build the world’s finest wooden boats™ became supported by a team, infrastructure, and facilities to execute their mission. For 44 years, Jean and Steve plotted the course of their business through turbulent and magnificent times, and along the journey, they have been fortunate to work with a tremendous team and amazing customers.

After 44 years of business, Jean and Steve handed off the helm and officially sold the business to their son, Ben (President), and daughter-in-law, Erika (Vice-President).  While Jean and Steve remain pillars of our identity, and regulars in the shop, they now take on the role of “consultants” and enjoy the freedom to play with their grandkids and leave for a ski or bike ride at a moment’s notice.  Both Steve and Jean also serve on various boards and committees throughout our community, contributing their time and talent to many organizations.


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“I think the best part of owning my Van Dam was being involved in the design – and after watching it being built, knowing I had the best.”

– Chiara Owner

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