Category Archives: TACO News

TACO Spotlight: Retired Army Lieutenant Colonel Uses His Love for Water to Help Veterans

While many across America will be outdoors this Memorial Day, retired Army Lieutenant Colonel Tim Hoffmann will be in his truck driving more than 1,000 miles from Maine to Indiana to help veterans in need.

It all started in 2013 after Hoffmann retired from both his civilian and Army Reserve careers in Nursing Administration. As a lifelong fisherman and boater looking for ways to give back, he saw an opportunity for the boating and fishing industries to come together to help veterans.

“We could reach many deserving vets who had served in combat and were experiencing significant challenges and hardship on their return to civilian life,” said Hoffmann, who was drafted into the military in 1968 during the Vietnam War.

In 2014, Hoffmann and his daughter Ann launched Vets On The Water [VOTW], a Maine-based nonprofit dedicated to helping active duty, disabled veterans and Gold Star families experience and enjoy time on the water. Activities include fresh and saltwater fishing, sailing, cruising and ice fishing.

While Hoffmann would normally be on the water with veterans this Memorial Day, he instead is adding another boat to the VOTW program – a specially adapted SunChaser Geneva 22 Fish Deluxe pontoon by Smokercraft with a Yamaha Outboard engine, electronics from Raymarine and a trailer from BassPro.

On Sunday, May 27, Hoffmann and his daughter are departing Rockport, Maine for the Smokercraft headquarters in New Paris, Indiana – a 16-hour drive taking place over Sunday and Monday, Memorial Day. On Tuesday, Hoffmann said he plans to tour the facility and meet the entire Smokercraft team before heading back to Maine with the new boat in tow – arriving just in time to prep for another day with Vets On The Water.

Smokercraft is donating a specially adapted Sunchaser Geneva 22 Fish Deluxe pontoon. Stock photo courtesy of Smokercraft.

Phil Smoker, Smokercraft Vice President of Sales, said the pontoon is the second boat the family-owned company is donating to VOTW. He said the addition of the pontoon will provide veterans in wheelchairs an opportunity to participate because of the accessible boarding and ability to more easily maneuver around the deck.

“We love what he’s doing for our vets and we hope that the program only continues to grow,” said Smoker.

VOTW is entirely volunteer based. There’s no overhead costs and 100 percent of every donation, whether fishing or boating products, gas cards or meals, goes to veterans. Because of this, Hoffmann’s mantra is that the program belongs to all who give their time, equipment or services to the cause.

Hoffmann, second from the left in red, onboard the 18-foot specially adapted Smokercraft Freedom 180, which was also donated by the Indiana-based company for the program. For this boat, Suzuki donated the engine, Venture Trailers donated the boat trailer and Fulton donated trailer accessories. Photo courtesy of Tim Hoffmann.

Hoffmann also works with the VA Maine Health Care System in Togus, which identifies eligible clients, obtains physician orders for participation and provides transportation and VA staff on each watercraft during the weekly trips.

Weather permitting, Hoffmann and his team of volunteers conduct nearly 60 trips per year for an estimated 1,000 veterans.

Hoffmann with retired Army Staff Sergeant Travis Mills, who lost portions of both arms and legs from an IED while on active duty in Afghanistan. In Sept. 2013, Mills founded the Travis Mills Foundation, a nonprofit organization formed to benefit and assist combat-injured veterans. Read more about Mills at www.travismills.org. Photo courtesy of Tim Hoffmann.

Shortly after the program first launched, Hoffmann reached out to TACO for some aluminum rod holders. After speaking with Mike Kushner, TACO’s Vice President of Sales & Marketing, Hoffmann said he was surprised when a pair of brand new Grand Slam Outrigger Mounts, Aluminum Tele-Outrigger Poles and a pair of 4-rod Aluminum Rod Holders arrived at his house just five days later.

“I think we’re the only people in the country who are using outriggers for fishing mackerel, which is a very small fish,” said Hoffmann. “But it allows us to get another two or more lines in the water and not get tangled.”

VOTW also uses this 23-foot SeaCraft with a 3-foot long bracket and a Tohatsu 250 outboard engine. In this photo, Hoffmann rigged his TACO outriggers with multiple flags to honor veterans. Photo courtesy of Tim Hoffmann.

Hoffmann also connected with Thom Dammrich, president of the National Marine Manufacturers Association [NMMA]. Together with the BoatUS Foundation, the American Sportfishing Association and the NMMA, Hoffmann is looking for ways to replicate the VOTW program throughout New England and potentially nationwide.

“What I really like about Tim’s effort is that it’s totally volunteer driven,” said Dammrich, who first learned of Hoffmann and the VOTW program two years ago. “He wants to find other volunteers like himself in other parts of the country who are willing to take this on, with the support of the boating industry, to get veterans on the water.”

Hoffmann said he is optimistic VOTW will continue to grow because of the many organizations and individuals who believe in the program.

“I had the idea, but the program truly belongs to the people who participate and support it,” said Hoffmann. “We create the opportunity for the vets, but the real opportunity is for people like Mike Kushner and others, the boaters and fishermen, who step up and take the vets out.”

Looking to the future, Hoffmann is hoping to network with scientists from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Woods Holes, Mass. to plan offshore shark and bottom fishing excursions. Additionally, he said he has no plans of slowing down his work for veterans in Maine and the surrounding areas.

While the VOTW does not have an official Web site, Hoffmann encourages veterans and others who want to learn more to visit the organization’s Facebook page, “VETS on the WATER.”

In the coming days, we’ll be posting updates about Hoffmann’s road trip and Smokercraft visit to our TACO Marine Twitter and Facebook pages. Until then, thank you to all the amazing military men and women who have served our great nation. We wish everyone a happy and safe Memorial Day.

Where’s OMAR – The Ocean Marketing Demo Van?

OMAR, the traveling Ocean Marketing product demo van, stopped by Ellett Brothers outside of Columbia, S.C. for training on our TACO Marine sport fishing and dockside accessory products.

Ken Wickey from Ocean Marketing talks about our premium line of Grand Slam Outrigger Top Mounts and Tele-Outrigger Poles.
Ken Wickey from Ocean Marketing presents to the sales team at Ellett Brothers outside of Columbia, S.C.

OMAR has its own Facebook page, Omar – The Ocean Marketing Demo Van, and followers can see where it has been and where it’s headed next.

OMAR is making its way north and the Ocean team is planning the remainder of its spring tour.

For information about booking a tour stop, post a request on the OMAR Facebook page, visit the Ocean Marketing web site www.oceanmark.com or call 1-800-343-8294.

TACO is Growing with New Addition to Miami, Florida Customer Service Team

Introducing Kathy Meza, the new Account Support Specialist with our Customer Service team in Miami, Florida.

Meza, a South Florida native with a wealth of customer service experience, said her role with TACO is more behind-the-scenes.

“I’m entering orders and making sure the shipment is correct and everything goes smoothly,” said Meza, who follows orders from beginning to end to ensure customer satisfaction.

Meza said she was drawn to work at TACO, not only because of its commitment to customers, but because of the environment within the office and abundance of long-lasting employees.

“A significant portion of the employees have been here a long time, which says a lot about the company itself,” said Meza.

Meza said one of the reasons TACO is successful in the metals, plastics and marine industries is because they go above and beyond to deliver what every customer needs.

“[Customers] don’t care how much we sell, they care about whether we can get them the material they need on time,” she said. “I think that’s what brings our customers over more than anything.”

Meza said she is excited for the potential to grow within TACO. Additionally, she said her goals with the company include helping to further streamline the customer experience while also maintaining the company’s goals.

Quality Products, Service and Customer Care Across the Marine Industry

As a leader in the marine industry for nearly 60 years, we take great pride in being a full-service solutions provider to our customers. Founded in 1959, we’ve built our reputation on design, manufacturing, warehousing, distribution and just-in-time delivery. Boat builders, accessory manufacturers, dealers, distributors and retailers rely on our expertise to bring their products to fruition on time, within budget and with a level of unparalleled quality.


DESIGN, ENGINEERING, MANUFACTURING & FABRICATION

At TACO, our many years of experience working with aluminum, plastics and stainless steel, allows us to understand both the esthetical and functional material capabilities while working with customers to develop innovative product solutions that also provide long-lasting performance within a harsh marine environment.

 

Challenged to think outside the box, our TACO engineers utilize 3D modeling, rapid prototyping and extensive in-house testing capabilities to develop and deliver products that raise the bar and provide added value to customers. Using electronic interchange for drawings and files, our TACO team ensures fast turnaround of customer design proposals and continual support right through final delivery and assembly.


WAREHOUSING, INVENTORY MANAGEMENT & DELIVERY

In addition to custom design solutions, we offer a full assortment of more than 800 readily available stock items. Core product lines include rub rail, seating and pedestals, sport fishing equipment, as well as canvas top and metal fab hardware.

We have a 150,000-square-foot manufacturing and central distribution warehouse located in Sparta, Tenn. and regional warehouses in Florida and South Carolina – allowing for next or 2-day delivery to customers within the eastern and central state regions. Delivery is often provided on our own TACO fleet of trucks to most customers – helping to ensure products are received on-time and without any loss or damage.

Our advanced inventory management programs track monthly product usage to meet customer-specific requirements and aid in reducing high on-hand stock levels and carrying costs. Orders are scheduled to be manufactured, warehoused and delivered around each customer’s specific usage requirements with safety stock maintained by us for any unexpected or sudden emergencies.


SALES & CUSTOMER SERVICE

Our TACO team includes a seasoned factory-direct outside sales force who understand customer business objectives and challenges. They offer continuous support and develop solutions to best improve customer product and help customer business run more smoothly and cost effectively. Our outside sales team partners with an inside customer service team who is dedicated to understanding customer needs and ensuring that orders are shipped and received correct, on time and without any interruptions.

From product design, engineering, manufacturing and inventory management to sales, technical support and ensuring on-time delivery of products, all of us at TACO Marine are dedicated to providing the highest level of quality and service to meet each customer’s needs. At TACO, we place great emphasis on Innovation, Quality and Service – bringing new ideas and solutions to customers while raising industry standards.


For more information on all our TACO Marine services, visit tacomarine.com, fill out the contact form below and subscribe to this blog.

The Conclusion to the TACO Marine Project Boat Saga with Ship Shape TV

The episode you’ve been waiting for is here. We’re bringing you the final Ship Shape TV episode that features the TACO Marine Project Boat conclusion.

An adventure more than two years in the making, with twists and turns and wonderful surprises, Project Boat would not have been possible without the tremendous support of its many sponsors listed below and the crew at Ship Shape TV.

Together, we fundraised more than $132,000 for the I’M LOGAN IT Foundation – supporting the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation and college scholarships for deserving students.

Winner Roger LeFranc holding the winning ticket, which he purchased during the Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show Nov. 4, 2017.

The winning raffle ticket was sold to Roger LeFranc of Melbourne, Florida during the Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show Nov. 1 – 5, 2017. LeFranc, an avid fisherman and boater, said he plans to christen the boat “Justin Time II” after his son, Justin.

Left to right: Tim Neuman, Bert Delle of Ship Shape TV, Mike Trent, winner Roger LeFranc, Justin LeFranc, Rick Francisco and Mike Kushner of TACO Marine.

Alongside his family and many friends, LeFranc said he plans to take his newly restored Pursuit 2650 on many fishing adventures and tournaments as the “Justin Time Fishing Team.”

Thank you to A1 Boat Transport, AA Boat Tops & Canvas, ACR Artex, Armstrong Nautical Products, Boat Outfitters, Boat Steering Solutions, Bob Hewes Boats, BT’s Welding, Canvas Designers, CWR Electronics, Dennis Friel Art Studios, LLC, Dometic, Dorado Boats, East Penn Manufacturing Co., Edson Marine, Fiberglass Coatings, Sunbrella, GOST, Hi Tide Manufacturing, IGX 2000, Interlux Yacht Paint, JL Audio, The Jupiter Bike, Finholder and More, Lenco Marine, Magic Tilt Trailers, Mantus Marine, Marine Customs Unlimited, Marine Tech, Mate Series, MPI, Normic Fishing, Ocean-Tamer Marine Bean Bags, Pacer Group, ProMariner, Quantum Paint, SeaDek Marine Nonskid, Sea-Dog Line, Shurhold, SPX Johnson Pumps, Swobbit Products, Taylor Made Systems, ThrowRaft, Sea Tow, SiriusXM Radio, TNT Custom Boatworks, White Water Marine Hardware and Yamaha Outboards.

Also, a special thank you to the Pinellas Community Foundation, Miami International Boat Show, Tampa Bay Boat Show and the Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show.

TACO Team Adds New Faces in Marketing and Customer Service

We’re expanding our TACO customer service team with the addition of Ernie Santiago, our new Customer Service Manager – bringing more than 20 years’ experience from a multitude of industries to the position.

Prior to joining TACO, Santiago worked customer service in the heavy equipment, aviation and marine electronics industries, respectively. Because of his varied experiences, Santiago said transitioning to TACO was easy.

“I understand the customers,” said Santiago, a South Florida transplant who moved from the Boston area when he was 15. “I recognized immediately the client base.”

Santiago said one of the biggest strengths in the TACO customer service team is longevity – with more than half having been at the manufacturing company for 20 years or more. Additionally, he said every member of the customer service team – no matter how long their employment with TACO – brings a wealth of experience to the role, including a seasoned boat captain and an expert in data entry.

“I don’t think there’s anything these people won’t know,” he said.

After joining TACO in February, Santiago said he’s made elevating the level of customer service a renewed priority for the team – aiming to make the department the heart of the company.

“To me, that’s the only way to remain competitive from a customer service standpoint,” he said. “All of our customers matter. Whether you’re the small ma and pa shop down the road or a big retailer, everybody’s important to us. We want to be able to take care of all our customers with a lot of care, a lot of empathy and obviously do everything quickly and efficiently.”

For the long term, Santiago said he plans to incorporate new policies and procedures into the department to fine tune customer service with the highest-quality support. Additionally, as the company continues to grow in the marine industry, he plans to streamline the customer service onboarding processes for new team members.

“If someone comes in fresh on our team, you hand them a book, basically, and they can assimilate into our TACO life a little bit quicker and faster,” he said.


TACO also brought onboard Zoe Munyon as the new Marketing Assistant – helping with everything from print materials to the 2018 catalog and everything in between.

Prior to joining TACO, the North Miami native grew up boating and fishing with her dad, a former charter boat captain and avid angler. In fact, Munyon credits her childhood experiences on the water for fostering her desire to work in the marine industry long term.

“Growing up, we had a few fishing boats over the years,” said Munyon, who began her marketing career in the marine industry. “Previously, when I worked in the boating industry, I felt connected to what I was doing on a daily basis.”

Briefly, Munyon said she left the marine industry to dabble in sales, but said her heart was back in boating.

“I’m very happy to be working at TACO now because I’m back doing marketing, something I truly enjoy,” she said.

With a Master’s degree in Marketing from NOVA and a Bachelor’s degree in Business from FIU, Munyon said she is excited for her new role within TACO and the many new design possibilities, such as revamping the packaging, launching a new Web site and creating new catalogs, pamphlets and flyers.

Additionally, Munyon said she is looking forward to diving deeper into the marine industry and TACO – getting to know the many products TACO manufactures while also working closely with the many departments within the company, such as engineering, customer service and production.


In addition to hiring new team members, we’ve also welcomed back Account Management Specialist Rey Gonzalez, who took an 18-month hiatus to travel.

After being out of the TACO headquarters for several months, Gonzalez said he was taken by surprise when he walked through the doors on his first day back.

“I got that ‘wow’ feeling,” said Gonzalez, who hadn’t seen TACO since its offices were renovated. “It’s modern and up to date.”

The renovations include doing away with closed-off cubicles and creating a more open, collaborative working environment with a modern look and feel.

“I was expecting to come back to my old cubicle and doing things the way it was done before,” said the Ohio native and former Marine.

After traveling and taking time to explore his goals, Gonzalez said he views customer service in a different light – developing a new appreciation for the role.

“I can take my experiences and bring them back [to TACO],” he said. “I’ve grown so much more, as far as how to talk to customers and take care of them.”

Despite nearly 20 years as a TACO Account Management Specialist, Gonzalez said he has new goals for the position and the TACO team – focusing on elevating his service from great to superior and providing individualized attention to each account, no matter the size or request.

“Once you put that caring feeling behind that conversation, people are more receptive [and] they want to listen to you,” said Gonzalez. “You have to take time out for that person, no matter what. Whether it be a huge order or a small order, it’s an order. It’s someone putting faith in the company, buying our product. We work so hard to get [that product] out the door, so why not get it into the person’s hands and make their whole experience pleasant.”

Gonzalez will not only pick up where he left off – managing several TACO accounts – but anticipates he will specialize in specific areas of the company to provide top-notch service to his customers.


For more information about TACO Marine, visit tacomarine.com or fill out the contact form below.

TACO Hires New Strategic Product Manager Mark Henderson

We are excited to announce that Captain Mark Henderson of the Liquid Fire Fishing Team is joining the ranks of TACO Metals as our new Strategic Product Manager.

Henderson at the 2018 Progressive® Miami International Boat Show at Miami Marine Stadium docks. TACO Marine Photo / Dana Koman

As a lifelong fishing enthusiast, who turned his hobby into a renowned sport fishing team, it only made sense that Henderson would someday work in the marine industry. The only question was when?

Henderson didn’t begin competitively sport fishing until 2004, when his friend invited him to join his team for the Raleigh Saltwater King Mackerel Tournament.

“We didn’t know anything about tournament fishing, but we wanted to fish,” said Henderson, a Durham, N.C. native equally known for his humor and thick Southern accent as well as his fishing accomplishments.

But by the end of 2004, Henderson and his friend qualified for the Southern Kingfish Association National Championship. Soon after, Henderson bought his first boat – a 25-foot Contender with a bright red hull, which he named “Liquid Fire” after his father’s homemade hot sauce.

From there, Henderson launched the Liquid Fire Fishing Team and began his dive into the marine industry – winning multiple tournaments and accelerating his team into the sport fishing record books.

Henderson, holding a freshly-caught King Mackerel, was awarded the 2008 Yamaha Professional Kingfish Tour’s Angler of the Year. Photo Courtesy of Liquid Fire Fishing Team

“I was able to spend more and more time in the industry, around boating and around center consoles,” said Henderson, who previously worked in the automotive industry for nearly 25 years. “[The marine industry] became a growing passion for me, [but] for a while I just kind of fought it. I [already] had a great job and great freedoms and things like that. I didn’t pursue it real hard, but I was also watching and looking at Trade Only Today and talking to a lot of people about the industry.”

In 2009, after Henderson caught a sport fishing sponsorship from TACO Metals, he said his passion for the marine industry grew to a point that he could no longer fight his desire to shift career gears.

“I saw such a vast opportunity within the company and the sections of the business that they’ve got,” said Henderson, a married father of three. “There’s really nobody around like TACO. I felt like my skillset could benefit them and benefit me as far as a career standpoint.”

Having only started at TACO March 5, Henderson has already hit the water at full throttle – working the TACO Marine booth at the Independent Boat Builders, Inc. Vender Expo in St. Louis, Mo. and angling together preliminary production on a new as-yet named TACO YouTube program, which is slated to debut this Spring.

The Liquid Fire Fishing Team is comprised of Henderson and his sons, Crockett and Joshua, wife Audrey, parents Sue and Charles and brother-in-law Chris Waters. Today, they compete aboard a SeaVee 390z Center Console with Mercury 350 quad outboard engines, which is equipped with TACO Marine Grand Slam Pro Series 500 Outrigger Top Mounts and Carbon Fiber Poles. Photo Courtesy of Liquid Fire Fishing Team

As the Strategic Product Manager, Henderson will oversee new TACO product launches in 2018, which may include everything from testing and development with TACO engineers to getting the product to market on time with the correct price point.

“Those are some very, very specific high-profile projects that I think we want to be sure to focus on,” he said.

Henderson said joining TACO Metals is a dream come true.

“I haven’t been as excited about a change in something as I am right now in many, many years,” he said. “I’m thankful to have another segment that excites me. I think I can be beneficial to the people in the company that mean so much to TACO and TACO means so much to them.”

From TACO Metals to Marine, family-run business spans nearly 60 years

In 1959, after moving from Massachusetts to Miami with his young family, Dave Kushner purchased a small business called TACO Metals – an aluminum railing company serving the pool fence market.

 

DaveKushner
TACO Metals’ founder Dave Kushner.

After installing railing aboard a boat for a local boat builder, Kushner recognized an opportunity to expand the business into the marine industry – growing TACO’s borders beyond Miami and eventually breaking ground with distribution centers, regional warehouses and manufacturing facilities in Massachusetts, Tennessee and overseas.

Like most family-run businesses, Kushner’s three sons eventually joined the TACO workforce. As youngsters, mirror twins Mike and Bill, and younger brother Jon, remember helping their father in the TACO warehouse – performing an array of tasks to meet customer needs.

“I would go in with my dad on weekends and holidays and do little odd jobs,” recalled Jon, the now-President of TACO.

Those odd jobs included punching pickets on aluminum railing – a task Bill, then 10 years old, remembers well.

“I would have a rack that was probably over a thousand pickets,” said Bill, Vice President of Manufacturing. “I’d be sitting there [at] the punch press, punching holes, flipping them, [and] punching the other end. That was my first job working at TACO.”

Together, the three brothers followed in their father’s footsteps and eventually took over the business after Dave Kushner retired in the early 90s.

Kushner Brothers and Project Boat
From left to right: Jon Kushner, President, Bill Kushner, Vice President of Manufacturing, and Mike, Vice President of Sales & Marketing.

Years later, sound advice from their father still rings true today.

“He was very fond of telling us, the three of us, that establishing close relationships with our vendors was a very critical thing,” said Jon.

In fact, Mike, Vice President of Sales & Marketing, said TACO still has some of the same relationships with vendors today that his father established more than 50 years ago.

Jon said their father also emphasized innovation – doing things new and different to avoid products becoming commoditized and never being content within the marketplace.

With this advice in mind, the Kushner brothers continue to grow TACO’s core product categories – rub rail, sport fishing, seating and marine fabrication, which is pipe, tube and hardware for tops and towers.

Two of the latest innovations from TACO are the Grand Slam 450 and 500 Outrigger Mounts, which were designed to meet the demands for larger, faster fishing boats.

As TACO continues to evolve, the Kushner’s recognize the importance of the many individuals who make up the TACO family.

Sparta Marine Fabrication Team.JPG
With more than 110 employees today, the Kushner brothers recognize the importance of the many individuals who make up the TACO family. Seen here are members of the Sparta, Tenn. marine fabrication team.

“We have a team of people who all have a lot of different skills,” said Bill. “We’ve got people who have a passion for the business. There are people who, for the most part, have been around TACO and the marine industry [for] many years. We have a team that all has pretty highly specialized skills within the market. We’re in a business where, I think, we continue to have fun and everybody enjoys and contributes.”

The brothers agree, it’s because of the TACO team, the company values instilled from their father and the philosophy to do whatever it takes to satisfy customers that make TACO successful today and for the future.

Discover more about TACO Metals by visiting tacometals.com and tacomarine.com.