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| And then we added an eight-foot dinghy of my
design--its called the Seashell and we sold it as a knockdown kit for
thirty-five dollars. Yachtsmen bought the kit and put the boat together
We built in the neighborhood of 35,000 Seashells and also put out a somewhat similar rowboat in kit form which was sold by one of the big mail order companies. As far as I know, that was the first knocked-down boat kit ever produced."
Though the "110" and the Seashell kit programs ("program" is the Hagertys' favorite word) provided a good living for the Hagertys and the eight or ten local craftsmen Fran had retained from his wartime shop force, working in such a specialized field had its drawbacks. The trade was strictly seasonal and dealer relationships were often uncertain and sometimes downright costly.
"We sold some of the Seashells by mail and that program suggested there was a big mail-order market for knocked-down items--for boats kits, anyway. And mail-order business had one big advantage--people sent a check when they ordered the merchandise. So you can see why I was thinking in terms of a knocked-down kit to be sold by mail when I looked at the chair in John's room that night."
The Hagerty shop was still busily producing the boat kits (this part of the business was later sold to a Branford, Connecticut, boatbuilding company) when Fran and Mary began to generate enthusiasm for their furniture venture during the latter part of the 1948-49 winter. As Mary puts it:
"We had something to start with--the shop and Fran's experience in building things of wood. And I knew a little about New England antiques because I'd been interested in them for a long while, though I was no sort of expert. What we had to find out was whether we could build faithful copies of old furniture so that they could be reassembled by householders without tools or any particular skill, whether people would buy what we did build and whether there would be a reasonable profit in such a project."
"One feature that encouraged us at the start--as we began talking it over at home and with our friends here in Cohasset--was the realization that we wanted just such furniture ourselves. We had been married only a few years and we were furnishing a house and we liked Early American pieces, but we couldn't afford to go out and buy good antiques. And we figured there must be lots of young people in the same boat--people who wanted really nice things, but couldn't afford the originals."