It’s no secret that quality and bespoke design are integral to the superyacht industry, though to what extent may come as a surprise to many. One company that prides itself on every detail of its trade is Hartnack & Co., a family-run business specialising in beautifully hand-crafted guest books, menus, portfolios and presentation boxes.
“It sounds simple,” says Nick Hartnack, who co-founded the company with his wife Jackie in 2013. “But making these standard items special is the challenge. We create totally bespoke products; that is our specialty, whether it’s a single item or a set of 12 menus.”
Suppliers to superyachts, shipyards, private jets and luxury brands such as Breitling Watches, Nick shares the story behind the name and the qualities that put Hartnack & Co. on the road to success.
Tell us about the beginnings of Hartnack & Co.
Originally we had a furniture design and wholesale business. We were fortunate as it was just when the housing boom started in the early 2000s and credit flowed freely. People were busy buying houses and they needed furniture, so we were in the right place at the right time. However, the market and our place in it changed over time, so in 2010 we decided to sell up.
A little while later, our youngest daughter was doing an acting course, and to progress on to the next stage, she needed to present her last certificate but she couldn’t find it. Jackie suggested that what she needed was a binder to keep everything in one place and, being an excellent seamstress, she decided to create one herself. At about the same time, I met a photographer who needed to compile a portfolio so Jackie made that too! We soon realised we were onto something, so we started the company in 2013 and we haven’t looked back.
When did you enter the luxury market?
We were starting to get approached by high-end retailers and architectural studios who wanted presentation portfolios, and our first premium brand client was Linley London, who needed a number of leather binders for an interior design project. After that the business grew and diversified through word of mouth. Jackie has a keen eye for detail and loves a challenge so we were also able to handle interesting custom projects.
Typically our customers aren’t looking for ‘off the shelf’ so we cater to a particular market. We’ve created boxes and binders for fashion houses, jewelers, boutique hotels, governments, several presidents and a royal family. At the moment we do a great deal for classic cars and collectors. Some of them are ex-racing cars worth millions, and they come with massive amounts of original documentation on their history and provenance which underpins their value, so the owners want something very special and bespoke to the individual car.
Do you have a limit in production?
Because of our website and online profile, we are often approached for large orders but we tend to refer these elsewhere. At Hartnack & Co. we make everything by hand, there is no machinery, so we tend to focus on custom orders where the focus is quality rather than quantity. A philosophy of handcrafted, bespoke and personalised is something we’re very proud of and have carried forward.
Tell us about your relationship with Breitling watches.
It’s an interesting story. They were looking for a bespoke binder for their stockists worldwide and quality was the number one criterion, but they wanted 1900 of them. Normally we would have passed it up, but it coincided with the start of the pandemic when business was suddenly uncertain, so we were grateful for the opportunity as it kept us all busy for months. Now all Breitling outlets around the world have a handmade binder for warranties made by us!
When did you start working with yachts?
Our son Luke has been working as crew for the past 12 years, and in his view, what he saw on board could be done just as well, or better, by his mother so, when it was time for new menus or guest books, he’d recommended us - he’s our best salesperson! He assures us that chief steward/esses have very high standards, but fortunately we haven’t let him down and his fellow crew members haven’t been disappointed.
Soon we had stews contacting us directly to enquire about custom made binders for things like menus, guest information folders and guest books for guests to sign and write about their trip. And as well as leather, we offer a range of materials including buckram or faux/vegan leather in a variety of styles. If clients tell us what they want we will make it, that’s the beauty of a totally custom approach.
Do you work with other types of client in the yachting industry?
Yes, besides yachts, and partly thanks to Luke’s efforts, we’ve worked with many different brands and companies in the yachting world. For example, we provided Baltic Yachts with personalised guest books as gifts for clients and provided brokers with books as gifts for their clients. We’ve also made a custom portfolio for Norbiskrug to present their new designs.
Custom project and presentation binders are a great fit for yacht design studios and shipyards. If a company presents drawings and ideas to a client, then our products are entirely bespoke to the project. However, discretion is important in the superyacht industry. Owners don’t want the name of their yachts on our website, so we have to respect our clients’ wishes; quality and discretion go hand in hand.