Woody Riddick, owner of Riddick Bayrunner Boats, attaches a backrest while building a Bayrunner 2290 all-purpose skiff Thursday at his Rocky Mount business.

Telegram photo / Alan Campbell

Woody Riddick, owner of Riddick Bayrunner Boats, attaches a backrest while building a Bayrunner 2290 all-purpose skiff Thursday at his Rocky Mount business.

Company sets sail in rough times

By John Henderson
Staff Writer

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Woody Riddick said he’s found his niche in life – building boats.

He went to college to become a certified public accountant and initially worked in the business, but realized it wasn’t his passion.

“I was in the wrong career to start with,” he said.

In 2004, he started Riddick Bayrunner Boats, a company in Rocky Mount that designs and builds skiffs.

“It was just happenstance that I met some guys, especially a German who had worked all his life in the Fiberglas business, and he taught me all about the business,” he said.

Riddick entered a competitive market, facing many large boat builders in the state.

“North Carolina is known as the boat-building state,” he said.

Many of those companies have gone out of business during the recession as boats are a discretionary purchase, he said.

“A lot of them have fallen by the wayside in the last five years,” Riddick said. “Our recession started in September of 2007.”

It’s been a struggle for him to survive, but he keeps trying.

“There have been some really kind people that have not pushed me for rent and other things,” he said. “There have been some really understanding people. I think persistence is the key.”

As he’s tried to weather the recession, Riddick credits two local businessmen with giving him emotional support and important advice. He praised Mayo Boddie, an owner of Boddie-Noell Enterprises and chairman of the NorthEastern Entrepreneurial Roundtable, and the late Lindy Dunn, who served as CEO of Guardian Care nursing homes.

“I’d say the two of them really really helped center me,” he said.

Dunn, who was one of the weathiest men in North Carolina, drove up to Riddick’s business one day and wrote him a check for a boat.

“Unfortunately, he developed leukemia about a year after we met,” Riddick said. “I truly lost a great friend when he passed because he was all about helping people.”

Riddick said his goal was to produce a better-built and better-riding skiff.

“It had to perform (dry riding – no grabbing or sliding in the turns),” his company’s website states. “It had to be efficient. Only those construction methods that have stood the test of time are used.”

He custom designs features on the boat but not the mold.

“There are lots of things (that can be shifted),” he said. “We do the fish boxes. We can take them out. We put in fish boxes at times and take out rod lockers and different consoles.”

Most of his customers are gained from word-of-mount referrals and are not from Rocky Mount, he said. Many come from Virginia and South Carolina.

The boats cost between $25,000 and $35,000 with motors and trailer and $15,000 without. The price also varies on the type of motor that is ordered.

Q: What products or services do you provide?

A: We build two versions of a flat-bottom skiff, a 20-foot model and a 22-foot model. The 20-footer is more designed for traveling the Intracoastal Waterway. You can go out in the ocean in it on the calm days. With the 22-footer, we have a lot of people on the nice weather days run out 20 miles.

We can supply the motors or not. We do both. Some people come in and have their motors and other people have me get a motor for them.

Each boat we build is from molds, so we have molds that build that same boat over and over again. Our boats offer a smoother ride.

When we pull the mold off of that full-scale model, it develops a wave in the bottom of it. That wave in the bottom naturally causes the boat to get up on top (of the water), so it makes the boat ride up on top versus a true flat-bottom, which you have more of the boat down in the water. I would describe the ride almost like a stone skipping across the water.

Q: Who are your key leaders?

A: Myself.

Q: How many people do you employ?

A: Myself and six part-time employees.

Q: What is your business philosophy?

A: That I have to do a better job. Being a little guy we have to put more quality into our boats and build a better product.

Q: What makes your business unique?

A: I think the hands-on nature. When you walk in the door here you talk to me, the builder, and I can tell you about every square inch of the boat, and the fact that being the little guy I have to do a better job. I have to build the reputation.

Q: How has your business grown in the last few years?

A: Zero. When we started in 2004, we were doing two boats a week, and now we’re doing maybe not even a boat a month. Most of the times we’ll get a boat a month.

Q: What kind of growth do you expect in the coming years?

A: At times, it has been an emotional roller coaster because it’s been such a struggle. I end up playing a whole lot of mind games. I say the only thing that is going to make me quit is me. Theoretically, I should keep at it and things should really happen for me in the future.

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Riddick Boats

Woody is really skilled, dedicated and makes a great boat. He has the characteristics of successful entrepreneurs. Even though his operation is currently relatively small, he adds positively to our region's reputation.

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