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Duane Smith Canvas Works, Inc
VOSB - Veteran Owned Small Business
PO Box 247
245 Cokato St E
Cokato, MN 55321
Toll free: 844-223-8148
Copyright 2012 | All Rights Reserved
Canvasworks is your premier canvas and metalwork one-stop shop in Minnesota serving the greater Twin Cities area and beyond. Quality craftsmanship is our forte and we specialize in custom projects. Whether it be an awning, boat canvas, SnoCaps Trailer Enclosures, upholstery, dog training products, hunting blinds, or industrial projects we can do it!
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The idea for the SnoCap product started in 1992. I had just bought myself a new snowmobile and was headed to the U.P. of Michigan for a long weekend of riding. As I drove I remember looking in the rear view mirror and thinking to myself how happy I was that the dealer had thrown in a new cover for my sled. Unfortunately I found out firsthand that covers don’t do much to protect sleds from the roads. When we arrived my brand new sled was COVERED in road slush and sand; there were salt and corrosive chemicals all over it! This experience led me to create the SnoCap.
I’ve owned Canvasworks Inc. since 1979. Our company is one of the three largest and oldest awning and marine fabricator companies in Minnesota. I used the skills I gained as a U.S. Navy parachute rigger to develop and fabricate the products we sell at Canvasworks and in 1992 I decided to use those skills to figure out a way to protect my new snowmobiles.
I knew that a fabric covered trailer would work to protect my snowmobile because the early airplanes used a wood braced wing covered in fabric to stay aloft. They achieved speeds in excess of 200 MPH, not including their dives, so traveling down the road at 60-70 MPH shouldn’t be a problem. I just had to figure out the specifics. It took me two years to get the everything down and work out the bugs while creating different models of SnoCaps to explore options and problems. At the end of that time I had the original SnoCap. Some of those original prototypes and original SnoCaps are still on the road today! Then we applied for (and were granted) our patent and trademark then got to the business of selling people on our product.
SnoCaps Trailer Enclosures - The Beginning
It took some time to sell the first SnoCap, people didn’t want to believe that a fabric cover could do the work of a traditional enclosed trailer. Then one day C.J. Ramstad drove by our shop and saw our SnoCap sitting in the lot. He was intrigued and stopped in to talk about the product. C.J. loved the SnoCap and with him and MSPN pulling our SnoCaps we were able to break into the industry. From that point on the SnoCaps Trailer Enclosures product started selling and selling well.
Several years later at HayDays I met a buyer from the largest distributor in the Powersports industry; I wanted to know how to get a product into their catalog. He gave me some names to call and I got an appointment to show them my SnoCaps. When the time came for my appointment a buyer came down to look at the SnoCap and find out the specifics. He wanted to know if there was a speed rating, how many we had made, and if I had any references. I told him we regularly hauled our SnoCap down the road at 75+ MPH in high winds and we had sold about 900 SnoCaps around the country, mostly in the Midwest. I told him C.J. Ramstad and MSPN had been a great sounding board for us while developing the final product. Finally the senior buyer came down and said that they would like to discuss buying 500 units.
Once we were in the office the fun started. He wanted to know what the retail cost was for a 10’ tilt trailer. I told him it was $999, but I could sell them to him for $680, drop ship them and give thirty days to pay. To my surprise he told me that it wasn’t done that way and proceeded to explain the normal procedure. According the buyer, their company gets the first 33%, the dealer gets the next 33%, and I was to manufacturer the SnoCaps for the remaining 34%. I told him that those numbers would work out to us making it for $390, but right now we had $460 in materials into each SnoCap. This is before any sewing, bending, or welding. I could see the deal falling apart in front of me, so I asked him how everyone else made it work. He told me that you had to first take the quality materials out and then you export the work. Basically he said you have it made in a foreign country with cheap materials. Then you import the finished product and sell it for the same price as the original, higher quality product. My thoughts on that were that a SnoCap wouldn’t be able to go done the road at 75+ MPH during high winds or take a 20” snow load if we used .090 wall aluminum tubing or .058 like one of the national sewing companies tried. His tops came off going down the road. Our SnoCaps stay put protecting your sleds. Our skins were made from road tested materials, designed to withstand the test of time. You weren't going to find that kind of quality cheap. So I decided I would keep making SnoCaps my way and we still are today.
Duane Smith, CEO
A 1996 model in for its first restitch on its 20 year old skin in 2016.
One of the original SnoCaps, in for a restitch in 2010. The owner still loved it and refused to sell!