Business Buzz: Bravada Yachts Transforms the Houseboat Industry

Leah LeMoineMarch 23, 2021
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Photo by Christian Hughes
Photo by Christian Hughes

Tolleson’s Bravada Yachts is transforming the houseboat industry.

Yacht clubs in Arizona have always been landlocked, tongue-in-cheek affairs like Cleator Bar and Yacht Club or the late Chandler Yacht Club restaurant. If Tolleson’s Bravada Yachts has its way, there may soon be legitimate yacht clubs at our lakes.

The company recently launched Invictus, a $2 million, 3,200-square-foot luxury houseboat designed by naval architect J. David Weiss. Bravada CEO Aaron Browning and president Robert Gutierrez tasked Weiss with “bringing some of my ocean yacht design sensibilities to freshwater vessels,” he says. Gone are the stodgy, blocky silhouettes typical of these barges, which were originally designed by RV manufacturers. “We drew a lot of inspiration from more organic shapes, and feathers and wings… the form should speak to movement, not stasis,” Weiss says. “I love cars as well, so the shapes of this were also inspired by contemporary models from Bugatti and McLaren.”

The car crossover is evident in Bravada’s demographics. “There’s an analogous appeal,” Weiss says. “These clients have very refined tastes in all these other arenas – in their homes, in their cars, in their private airplanes.” To wit: Bravada had an installation at Barrett-Jackson Collector Car Auction a couple of years ago and ended up selling a few boats.

Bravada is part of an industrial renaissance in Tolleson, the far West Valley city where Carvana, Amazon, Target and Circle K have also set up manufacturing and distribution facilities. “Our build facility in a normal part of the city would stick out like a sore thumb for how large it is [65,000 square feet], but where it’s situated in Tolleson, it’s just sort of anonymous.”

Currently, the company’s primary markets are in Arizona and Utah, but it’s in talks to build a facility extension on the East Coast. “Now that we have a clear vision for where the product line will go, what our offerings will be and how we will execute those, the next move is to… expand who we’re offering them to,” Weiss says. He’d also like to add a little more color to his design palette. “You have these incredible natural wonders like Lake Powell and… colors of the sunsets and the rocks and the water, and then you just have so many white boats,” he says. “The point is the lake, not the boat, but I think there could be more harmony there.”

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