Shipoke Custom Boatworks is Building and Restoring Classics in Safety Harbor
The company not only resurrected a classic flats fishing boat, it added two new skiffs to its lineup and now restores classic crafts as well.
When the Shipoke flats fishing boat disappeared few years ago, anglers from all over were upset with the news.
The Shipoke, founded in St. Petersburg in 1973, was beloved by fisherman for its comfort, versatility and affordability.
But thanks to a couple of businessmen who love boating and fishing, not only is the original Shipoke 18 back, but Shipoke Custom Boatworks is building two new skiffs as well as restoring old classics from other boat builders.
“The company has been around since 1973, and it was one of the original flats fishing boats,” owner Eugene Son explains. “After a couple years hiatus, we took it over a couple of years ago and brought it back.”
“It’s like the old Norelco commercial – we liked it so much, we bought the company.”
Shipoke, located off of Ninth Avenue North on Harbor Lake Drive, has been building the 18-foot skiff, as well as its 16’ and 14’ cousins, in Safety Harbor since April of 2011.
Son, who has been building boats since high school, and his business partner Chris Homer, thought the area would be a perfect home for their new company, thanks to its close proximity to the water and business-friendly environment.
But Son admits not everyone agreed with his plan.
“Most people thought we were crazy to build outside of Pinellas Park,” he says of the nearest area with a large industrial economy. “But we liked the community, we liked having the boat ramp nearby…and the city has been great.”
Homer, an avid fly fisherman who handles the sales and marketing for the company, concurs with his partner.
“The city was happy to have us aboard. They’ve done everything we could have asked for and more.”
Recently Shipoke has added a new service in addition to building its own skiffs from scratch; restoring classic models from other boat builders like Aquasport, Pro-Line and Boca Grande.
“We started strictly as a Shipoke business, but we have moved on to restoring classics,” Son explains. “We keep the aesthetic qualities of the old boat, but modernize them for modern anglers.”
Although neither Son nor Homer currently live in Safety Harbor, both are happy their business is located here, and they have no plans to go anywhere anytime soon.
“I live in Palm Harbor, but I love this town,” Homer says.
“I live in Feather Sound right now, but I intend to move here,” Son adds. “It’s a great community and I really enjoy it. We’ve been blessed.”
Address: 925 Harbor Lake Drive