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About RV by LIFE

Theatrical hardware may seem like an odd beginning for a chemical manufacturer, but that is exactly how Life Industries Corporation came to be some 55 years ago.

The founder and current CEO’s father, Edwin Kehrt, then owner of Mutual Hardware, purchased his first boat in the late 50’s only to learn shortly thereafter there were no suitable products on the market for caulking, which was critical for wooden boats (unless you wanted to used tar and pitch). He reflected back on his experience as a Capt. in the Army Corp of Engineers during WWII when the Air Force was using a newly developed product called ‘polysulfide’ to caulk bullet holes in the fuel tanks of their airplanes….and so began Life Industries’ first product, Life-Calk®. Over the ensuing years BoatLIFE®, the brand name for the new marine line, grew and grew.

By the late 1960’s it had acquired some remarkable products for repairing dry rot and cleaning teak wood and began its own manufacturing. It was quickly outgrowing its allotted space, and finally it was time for this fledgling company to leave the nest. In 1969 it moved into its own facility on Long Island. Now it had a proper laboratory for product development and, what seemed at the time, plenty of room to spread its wings.

Once on its own, it expanded into the international market and in 1971 shipped its first container of goods to the UK. There were many other changes, as well, for this little company, Life Industries. We purchased a group of manufacturing companies which thrust us into the world of building materials. Shortly thereafter it became apparent that the building industry was not the right place for us. We sold off that segment of the business and the product lines that went along with it, but kept all the machinery which positioned us well for the next phase of our growth: the various cleaners, waxes and polishes that we developed in our lab. We also established a UK enterprise and began limited manufacturing overseas.

During this time, we were growing so fast that cash flow became our biggest limitation.

Yes, it is true, ‘you can grow yourself right out of business’, and we almost did. In 1975, our bank called and said we were over-extended on our line of credit and we needed to meet with them. We soon learned we were not the only customers the bank had in this position. They required personal guarantees from my father and gave us a short window to get back in line. Of the other three customers, the bank was very clear in telling us our position was the worst of the three. Well, the other two didn’t make it, we were back on track within 30 days!

A few years later, after expanding further, we determined that we needed to purchase our own building and combine our manufacturing and warehousing under one roof (our manufacturing facility was located some 20+ miles away). So in 1979 we combined them both into a spacious building in Old Bethpage, NY where we remained until 1995 when the company was relocated to Charleston, SC by its current President/CEO.

During this time, we continued to develop and patent new products for our market. We expanded our caulking line as we developed a neutral cure silicone, a sandable silicone teak deck sealant and a hybrid product, which combines two unlikely substances: silicone and polyurethane.

Around that same time, we expanded into larger ships: Navy ships and the cruise line industry. We supplied the deck caulking and sometimes the labor to repair the decks for all of the ships of Costa Cruise Lines, American Hawaii Cruise Lines and Carnival Cruise Lines. Shortly thereafter we began supplying the Scandinavian and European shipyards building the new ships for both Carnival and Holland America. We were honored when our products were specified for the work to be done on the USS Iowa in preparation to host President Reagan on Liberty Weekend 1984.

In 2006 we introduced our AeroLIFE line of products for Light Sport Aircraft (Experimental Amateur Built) and developed unique products for specific applications that no one else was addressing.

Likewise in 2012 we introduced our line of products into the RV market under the name RV LIFE, now RV by LIFE (so as not to be confused with the magazine) which again addressed maintenance problems no one seemed to be addressing.

In 1990, when Mr. Kehrt retired, he left his daughter, Mrs. Schmidt, in charge of a company that was now $1.8 million in debt. One of the achievements she is most proud of was becoming debt-free by 1997. Mrs. Schmidt says “Being debt free has been a wonderful stress reducer especially during recessionary times. I would strongly recommend it for any company. It frees you to focus on more important things.”

Today, in addition to our own label we manufacture and package a variety of products for others in a variety of industries. We focus on small runs and work mainly, but not always, with companies that are trying to launch a new product or line.

Finally, Life Industries has a strong policy of buying MADE IN THE USA goods. If it is available in the USA, that is what we purchase. Sometimes that makes our products a bit more expensive, but we know we can rely on the quality. We are proud that our products are MADE IN THE USA and always try to support other companies who share that sentiment. This position has served us well.

All products proudly made in the usa