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The Awlgrip Brand and History

You may have wondered why it's called Awlgrip. As related by David Halcomb, recently former VP of Sales for Awlgrip who was involved in the earliest days of the brand: Bob Grow, founder of Grow Chemical (later Grow Group) and Joe Dilschneider, founder of U.S. Paint (which was a subsidiary of Grow Chemical), sat around a table in 1973 trying to come up with a name for the new paint they wanted to sell to the marine industry.

The product got its start when two Eastern Airlines pilots approached Merritt Boat and Engine Works about using US Paint’s Alumigrip Paint on their boat. Eastern was using Alumigrip as the finish on their aircraft. This lead to the painters at Merritt using Alumigrip on a couple more boats. One of these belonged to Mr. Grow, the other to Halcomb’s father.

The paint did an excellent job on these boats, and Grow and Dilschneider decided to market the product for use, but feedback from the market told them they needed a different name. Alumigrip sounded too much like a product made specifically for aluminum. After a brainstorming session, the name Awlgrip was chosen. It was intended to be Allgrip—implying that it was suitable for all substrates – but as the story goes, the handwriting on the bar-room napkin was so bad that when the secretary typed it out the next day, the “L” got converted to a “W.”

Halcomb was hired by Grow and Dilschneider to promote the new product, and the next year he managed to get the America’s Cup defender Courageous and its tender painted completely with Awlgrip. Soon the new paint was the talk of Newport, RI, and word of the product spread from there.

US Paint (owned by Grow Group) manufactured and marketed the product from its headquarters and factory in St. Louis, MO. The brand continued to grow, but at a slower than expected rate during the 1970s. There was an attempt to adapt the technology to many different markets, but this shotgun approach was hampered by limited marketing funds and certain characteristics of the technology. In 1979, a decision was made to concentrate on the pleasure marine/yacht market. Growth took off, built on an expansion of the product line to include a varnish and an anti-fouling line in addition to more surfacers and fillers alone with expanded distribution. During the 1980s, Awlgrip began the process of truly becoming a global brand.

The Grow Group began to suffer from growing pains in the late 1980s. In 1989, US Paint was sold by Grow to NOF (Nippon Oils and Fats), a Japanese chemical company with a large coatings division that had been looking for a manufacturing facility in the United States. NOF brought in new money for R & D, and the Awlgrip brand’s growth from a topcoat to a complete line of products for fairing and finishing yachts was completed during the NOF ownership.

In 2000, NOF decided to divest itself of its coatings businesses. As a result, the Awlgrip and Alumigrip brands of US Paint were sold to Akzo Nobel, with the sale being completed in June of 2002. Alumigrip went to Akzo Nobel Aerospace and Awlgrip to the Yacht Coatings Division of Akzo Nobel. As a part of Akzo Nobel Yacht, Awlgrip was now part of a business where yacht and marine coatings were the focus, not just on the sideline. Under the Akzo banner, the Awlgrip brand continued to flourish, spurred by improved management of its traditional products along with innovative new products such as Awlwood – a revolutionary new varnish introduced in late 2013.