Bill Fenech helped build Keystone RV in 1996 and started Grand Design RV in 2012 along with his brother Ron and their friend Don Clark.
Winnebago Industries purchased Grand Design in 2016, and Fenech eventually decided to take his passion to the boating industry by starting Barletta Boats in Bristol.
Q. After a career spent in RVs, why did you switch to pontoons?
A. I have had a passion for the water, water sports and boating for most of my life. After the sale of Grand Design RV, which was bittersweet, I had a void in my life. I’m an entrepreneur at heart, constantly looking for the next mountain to climb. My noncompete, and my ethics, would not allow me to be in the RV industry, but I saw a huge opportunity to make a difference in the pontoon boat industry.
Q. Can you describe some of the common ground between pontoon and RV manufacturing?
A. The overall business model is virtually identical, with some obvious differences. We definitely share suppliers with the RV industry, but there is very little dealer overlap — though we are doing business with some of my past RV dealer friends. In the RV industry, we would say we were 20 to 30 years behind the auto industry. In many ways, the boating industry is behind the RV industry in terms of dealer/manufacturer relations, product quality and innovation and customer experience. But Barletta is committed to excellence in all of those areas.
Be sure to read the full interview by Ed Semmler which originally appeared in the South Bend Tribune.