Meet Our Machinery
Karrie and Pete Smith
January 09, 2019
Of the 32 sets of artisans’ hands that come into contact with St. Croix rods in the Park Falls, Wisconsin facility, each belongs to a person with a unique story to tell. This month we talk with the husband and wife duo of Karrie and Pete Smith, who’ve worked at St. Croix in various capacities for a combined total of 48 years; 32 years this coming year for Karrie and 16 for Pete. After meeting in the handle assembly department in 1987, the two were married two years later in August of 1989, which makes this year their 30th wedding anniversary.
As mentioned, both started working at St. Croix Rod in 1987 where Karrie was a laborer and Pete was a lead in the handle assembly department then lead in the finished goods and shipping department. “I actually started working for St. Croix on the assembly of Zebco rod handles, which we no longer do,” says Karrie Smith.
With a degree in machining and welding, Pete is currently lead in the maintenance department and Karrie is lead of the finished goods and shipping department. “One of the highlights of my job is having a lot of input into developing the processes and the machinery used to manufacture St. Croix products. Fact is we build most of the machines we use in our processes in-house,” says Pete Smith. “There are a host of rod components, too, that we engineer and design here. For example, unique rod handles. We have a lot of proprietary handle components that differ from other manufacturers—all designed, engineered, and built here.”
“From 1987, we’ve seen this company transformed from a diamond in the rough. The technology now used to design and manufacture fishing rods is simply mind-blowing,” says Pete Smith.
Both Karrie and Pete say they love their jobs and couldn’t imagine working anywhere else, which Pete actually tried for a short time, but returned when he had the chance. “You don’t get that family good feeling of togetherness with other employers that you get at St. Croix Rod,” says Pete Smith. Karrie continues, “The Schluter family treat us like extended family and are engaged with all employees. It’s not uncommon to see them talking with everyone involved throughout the rod building process. And it’s a lot of little things that they do continually that really show they care about all of their employees.”
“We are honored to be part of a U.S.A. manufacturing team, which stands for quality. The expectations for quality of every single rod family is extremely high and must be checked off to rigorous standards before it goes to the warehouse and on to the retailer,” says Pete Smith.
In their spare time, Pete and Carrie enjoy spending time with family and fishing, especially ice fishing. “We love to ice fish and try to make a couple trips to Minnesota’s Leech Lake area each winter. This last winter we tested St. Croix Custom Ice rod prototypes, which have sold like hot cakes. Those were some pretty fun days on the ice,” says Karrie Smith.
Karrie adds that their employment at St. Croix gave them the opportunity to raise a family, even so far as providing employment to their son and daughter. “Our daughter worked in rod decals while working on her accounting degree and later on actually worked in St. Croix’s accounting department. Our son also picked up summer employment in shipping.”
“When it gets down to it, St. Croix Rod is really an outstanding company and we’re proud to be a part of it,” says Pete Smith.