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Personnel File - December 2008: Marine Industries

Allen Stancil
Designer, Liquidlogic LLC
Flat Rock

When consolidation became the name of the kayaking game in the late 1990s, it would have been easy for designer Allen Stancil to go with the flow. During 25 years with Easley, S.C.-based Perception Kayaks, he had built a reputation for making them more durable, lighter and shorter.

When Arcata, Calif.-based Watermark Paddlesports bought the company in 1998, Stancil wanted out. He believed consolidation was making the business too impersonal, emphasizing sales to big-box retailers. “It made me sad, and it made me mad,” Stancil, 57, says.

So in 2001, he joined forces with two colleagues, Woody Callaway and Steve Jordan. They raised $500,000 and formed Liquidlogic, incorporating two years later in Flat Rock. It merged with Greensboro-based Legacy Paddlesports LLC in March 2007. Legacy is the parent, but with only 83 employees, the combined company still counts as a small business in Stancil’s book. Plus, it adheres to the traditions he values.

The Liberty, S.C., native discovered kayaking when stationed in Germany after being drafted in 1970. When the Olympics were held in Munich two years later, he saw the world’s top kayaking competitors. He returned to the U.S. in 1973 and met Bill Masters, another kayaking fan who had recently started Perception. At the time, kayaks were made from fiberglass, which could shatter on the rocks. Stancil went to work for Masters as a designer, and they experimented until they perfected a polyethylene plastic model. Perception could mold and bake eight of the more-durable plastic boats in a 10-hour shift, while each fiberglass one took a week.

Stancil continued to try to make the boats more user-friendly and versatile. Perhaps his most famous model, the Dancer, introduced in 1982, was 5 feet shorter than the 13-foot vessels he had first observed in Germany. Men’s Journal named the Dancer one of its “Products of the Millennium,” alongside Stetson hats and Harley-Davidson motorcycles.

Legacy won’t disclose revenue, but Stancil says the company is doing well. His challenge, however, comes in continuing to improve the company’s designs. “I’ll keep doing this as long as they let me.”