Muskegon-based kayak maker to close

Muskegon County

MUSKEGON, Mich. (WOOD) — Muskegon-based Hemisphere Design Works, a major kayak manufacturer, will be closing.

The company says it unsuccessfully tried to seek capital to avoid closing. Leaders also “unexpectedly” learned its lender would not provide more funds, according to a letter from Hemisphere Design Works sent to the state of Michigan.

“At 11:00 (Tuesday) they called us to a meeting in the middle of the shop and informed us that things didn’t work out with the banks. I don’t know it’s higher up than me, but they informed us we wouldn’t have jobs,” former employee Davis Bonebrake said. 

Bonebrake has been with the company since September 2018. He worked as a machine operator. Bonebrake says it was a great company to work for and he was sad to hear about the shutdown. 

“I was shocked,” Bonebrake said. “It honestly didn’t seem like it on the floor. It seemed like a typical shop where you have your slow times. You do your layoffs, but it hit us kind of by surprise because we were still filling our orders. We still had machines running.” 

Bonebrake says the factory started to slow down two months ago, but that was typical for a kayak company. He says they normally have a summer push and a winter slow down.

“They apologized,” Bonebrake said. “They said that some of the mistakes were on their end.”

About a year ago, Hemisphere bought 22 acres at Port City Industrial Park to expand its operations. In 2017, the company announced it was moving its headquarters to downtown Muskegon.

According to the letter, 68 people lost their jobs Tuesday and more will be let go before the company expects to permanently close at the end of the year. 

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