Bill and Dick Kenner started building small wooden boats in 1948. From 1948 until 1962, with time out for a return to the wars in Korea, Kenner Boat Company of Knoxville, Arkansas was pretty much unknown, except locally. In the late 1950's, Bill and Dick started building runabouts built of fiberglass and marketed them under the trade name "Kencraft". In traveling around Arkansas and its environs, you still will see many of these boats in use.
The first major expansion for Kenner Boat Company was its starting to build, under contract, a 27' fiberglass cabin cruiser. At that time (1960), it was one of the larger boats being built of fiberglass. When the company that marketed the 27' cruiser disbanded, Bill and Dick used the extra plant space to start production of the famous Ski Barges.
With the advent of the Ski Barge, Kenner Boat Company started the real growth that helped it become one of the larger fiberglass boat builders and gained, for Kenner Boat Company, a reputation as a leader in new and different styles of boats.
Kenner had extensive experience in the production of fiberglass sailboats through several years of production for other sailboat marketing companies. Kenner built sailboats in sizes from 10' dinghies and the Snipe class, up to their largest boat, the Skipjack 35.
The Kittiwake was introduced at the 1966 New York Boat Show and caused a sensation. In 1966, Kenner also built a fiberglass version of Herreshoff's famous Rozinante and got production started on a new Thomas Gillmer designed boat, the Privateer. In addition to the new sailboats, Kenner Boat Company also designed, built and started production on a fiberglass high-styled houseboat, the Suwanee 47.
In 1967, Kenner Boat Company built and marketed the Ski Barge, Viking 24, Suwanee 47, Kittiwake, Rozinante, Privateer and began production of a luxury version of the famous Chesapeake Bay Oyster Dredges, the Skipjack 35.
1968 was a year of major expansion for Kenner Boat Company, now a Division of A J Industries. In addition to the boats built in 1967 the Suwanee 62 was added.
The year 1969 was seen as another year of growth and 100,000 sq. ft. of additional plant space was constructed. Introduction of two new boats was planned for early 1969. They were the Thomas Gillmer designed Privateer 35 and the Bill Kenner designed Suwanee 34.
Under the Kenner name, AJ Industries continued to produce Kittiwakes, the Privateer 26 and Privateer 35, the Skipjack 35, and the line of Suwanee houseboats as well as the Rum Runner and Captain's Gig that Kenner had put into production. Unfortunately, around 1971 AJ Industries began liquidating the business, the original Kenner Boat Company was shut down, and the molds were sold at auction.
Today in Knoxville, Arkansas you will find Gary Kenner and his cousin Bill producing Kenner fishing boats. As sons of the original owners, they were too young to remember very much about the days of sailboat construction. There are no existing records and they do not know how many were built.