Since 2010, we have proudly offered made-in-the-USA helm chairs that are crafted by some of the most talented individuals in the industry. To celebrate our 60-year anniversary and thank this vital team within TACO, please join us in recognizing our outstanding Seating Division in Largo, Florida.
Meet the TACO Marine Seating Division! Front row: Darren Henne, David Hix. Second row: Tina Tran, Osmany Perez, Qyunh Huynh, Keyla Milan Quesada, Fermin Quesada.
Back row: Amil Krivdic, Enes Gradisic, Edel Garcia, Charlie Wilkinson. Missing: Charles Upmeyer, Jesse Knight, Gary Lewelling, Juan Rodriguez.
Well before the foam is cut and the material sewn, there’s a lot of work that goes into making a helm chair. In fact, producing a helm chair requires a fair amount of pre-planning, quality control and component manufacturing. This is where TACO Production Scheduler David Hix comes into play.
Part art, part science, Hix explained that a big element of his role at TACO involves forecasting what the Seating Division is going to need on a regular basis. To plan effectively, he regularly examines orders, compares data from previous months or years, evaluates stock levels and places new orders for materials. Additionally, he works closely with the TACO Customer Service and Sales departments to ensure all needs are being met.
“A very important part of my job is to make sure we have a schedule and can control all of the orders out there,” said Hix.
Originally from Tennessee, Hix started in TACO’s Main Manufacturing & Central Distribution warehouse in Sparta, a small town 1-hour east of Nashville.
When the Production Scheduler opportunity in Florida became available, Hix seized the chance to live somewhere new and moved south to the Largo, Florida area in 2018.
Looking to the future, Hix is working to streamline the Seating Division processes to accommodate for the department’s continual growth. To reach new goals, he said having the right team in place is vital to the department’s success.
“The people here are very efficient in what they do,” said Hix of the 13 other men and women who make up the Seating Division. “The attitude, workmanship and camaraderie is very good here.”
“They’re very fast, but they’re quality oriented,” added Hix. “Everyone is very attentive to detail and I think that’s our biggest asset. We are very conscientious of the seats we are producing and we take ownership in each seat we make.”
Before a TACO helm chair gets mounted to a boat, prior to the material being sewn, the foam cut, or even before the components are stocked, a chair is envisioned, designed and engineered.
For Product Applications Engineer Jesse Knight, he is often tasked with not only designing an innovative helm chair, but customizing it to a customer’s needs, which can prove challenging.
“We get open-ended questions like, ‘we need a 36-inch bench for this kind of boat,’ or ‘we are trying to differentiate ourselves in the marketplace,’” explained Knight, who joined team TACO just six months ago after four years of designing orthodontic chairs.
Product Applications Engineer Jesse Knight is the newest member to the Largo, Florida Seating Division, having joined team TACO six months ago.
To meet the design and aesthetic challenges of customers, Knight works closely with Product Developer Gary Lewelling, who, like Knight, previously worked in the upholstery business before coming to TACO.
Together, Knight and Lewelling carefully review a builder’s style along with their instructions to create a chair. Each chair they design not only meets a builder’s flair and functional needs, but also the highest standards put in place by the ABYC.
As the Seating Division continues to grow and Knight develops his role with TACO, he and Lewelling are creating a more modular seating line where builders can easily mix and match aspects of a seat to create a chair unique to their brand.
Once a TACO chair design is complete and ready for assembly, Upholstery Builders Enes Gradisic and Amil Krivdic get to work.
For the past 20 years, Gradisic and Krivdic have spent nearly every day together – not just manufacturing marine seats, but as friends and, practically, brothers.
“We live on the same street,” said Krivdic, who first met Gradisic in 1997 when working for a different marine seating company. “I spend more time with him than my wife or brother or parents.”
When building a marine chair, Krivdic and Gradisic have the process down pat.
First, Krivdic takes all the substrate materials – marine starboard and foam – and forms the base and structure of the seat, while simultaneously the premium vinyl fabric is being cut and sewn according to the individual chair’s pattern. Once the sewing and substrate are complete, Gradisic assembles the final product, which involves wrapping the frame with foam, assembling the hardware and stapling the sewn fabric into place.
TACO Upholstery Builders Enes Gradisic (right) and Edel Garcia assembling new helm chairs in the Largo, Florida Seating Division.
The size of the chair and complexity of the design determines a seat’s build time from start to finish, explained Gradisic. Additionally, he said he, Krivdic and the sewers must maintain constant attention to detail to ensure a high-quality final product.
“I’ve worked for a lot of [marine] companies and TACO chairs are number one for quality,” said Krivdic. “We use high-quality substrate, foam and material. TACO is just the best.”
What helps Krivdic and Gradisic work so well is the talent and efficiency of the sewers – a three-person team consisting of Tina Tran, Keyla Milan Quesada and Qyunh Huynh who, one-by-one, sew the marine vinyl fabric according to the chair’s pattern.
Upholstery Builder Huynh has been sewing furniture and marine seats for more than 35 years after completing a 2-year college course in the profession.
After college, Huynh originally worked to revitalize old chairs, which were stripped of grizzled, worn fabric and reupholstered. Eventually, she transitioned to marine seating and then to TACO in 2015.
Upholstery Builders Tina Tran (front), Qyunh Huynh (center) and Keyla Milan Quesada sewing premium marine-grade vinyl fabric for TACO helm chairs.
“I love my job,” said Huynh, who added that sewing is second nature for her.
Throughout the assembly process and again when the seat is complete, Quality Control Lead Charlie Wilkinson thoroughly inspects every TACO helm chair from start to finish. He examines everything from the quality of the materials, the seams and staples, to the logo alignment, backing and shape. Once a seat passes inspection, it get wrapped and prepared for shipment.
“I’m like the line leader,” explained Wilkinson, who is approaching his 1-year TACOversary. “I help put out fires and take care of any issues that may arise. My goal is to help keep everything flowing smoothly.”
Wilkinson said the main contributor to his success is working with a passionate group of individuals within the Seating Division.
“The crew here is definitely the best in the industry,” Wilkinson said of his colleagues. “I’ve been in and out of the upholstery process for over 40 years [and] believe me, this team in here, I would put them against anybody else.”
A pair of TACO Boca Sport Chairs at the helm of a Sportsman Boats Open 312. Photo courtesy of Sportsman Boats.
TACO VP of Sales & Marketing Mike Kushner echoed Wilkinson sentiments about the Seating Division.
“They take a lot of pride in their work,” said Kushner. “They really come together and work as a family. They want to stay busy and see TACO succeed. They’re pushing me and want to keep growing.”
From all of us at TACO, thank you to Edel Garcia, Enes Gradisic, Darren Henne, David Hix, Qyunh Huynh, Jesse Knight, Amil Krivdic, Gary Lewelling, Keyla Milan Quesada, Osmany Perez, Fermin Quesada, Juan Rodriguez, Tina Tran, Charles Upmeyer and Charlie Wilkinson!