The Dakota 283 Story
As the old truck navigated the backroad corner, the familiar slip and skid sent gravel flying and dust billowing upwards, adding to the idyllic farm setting. Greg’s face was relaxed, peering at the cloud in his wake, admiring how it amplified the fiery orange sunset to the West. This was his slice of heaven.
Working the farm is more therapy than practical economics for both Greg and Jane Cronkhite, founders and owners of Dakota 283. South Dakota is nostalgic place for Greg, standing in juxtaposition to his Sterling Technologies factory in Pennsylvania where the bustle of life and industry is a world removed from his childhood in northern Illinois. This farm is more than a home, it’s a place of reconnecting with the things that matter most to the Cronkhites. It’s the very place Dakota 283 got its name, the 283 taken from the street address.
“This property represents a slower way of life, salt of the earth if you will. A lot of products get practical testing with our dogs right here. Pack up the truck or hop on plane back to business in Pennsylvania and the crates get even more testing. We find problems that way and we solve problems that way.”
Cronkhite Farm is also a place committed to habitat management, as Greg takes the stewardship of his land seriously. Creating a place where wild bird flourish and will continue to flourish for decades to come is at the heart of his daily activities. But, while dog kennel manufacturing and habitat work are the currently focus of Greg’s time and energy, it’s not where the story started.
In 1998, Greg and Jane established a custom rotational molding company called Sterling Technologies. Early in the company’s history, they started with the manufacturing of military cases for defense contracts. It was (and always will be) a Mom and Pop operation and, in those days, both would wear the a towering pile of hats. As the business grew, the payroll grew along with it so as to maintain a high standard of product quality and customer service.
“Defense contractors are very demanding. They have to be as they are in the business to deploy at a moment’s notice into very difficult situations. Our engineers worked closely with these companies in developing and testing military cases and protection systems for these assets. There were thousands of cases developed and molded and we have been able to refine the designs over the years to increase our ability to protect what is inside the case. We use this same forethought when we develop products for Dakota 283.” He glanced into the rearview mirror to the dogs crated in the bed of the truck and smiled. “And I think we would all agree that dogs are an even more important asset than anything in a military case.”
The relationship between humans and dogs is a bit primal. Something ingrained in us from our hunting and gathering days. Humans have found tremendous meaning in our relationships with our dogs and the Cronkhite family — maybe without knowing it — is still looking out for humanity’s first and favorite domesticated animal.
“The first dog that I personally owned was named Walter. I know, corny, my last name is Cronkhite,” he said with a chuckle. “He was a Hungarian Vizsla and I bought him when I moved to my first job out of college in Atlanta, GA. I have been a Lab guy for quite some time now. I had a chocolate named Wrigley (I am a huge Cubs fan) and a Black named Gumbo (my wife went to LSU). We now own two other Labs, Ramsey, a chocolate Lab, and Gilley our yellow Lab. Ramsey is getting older now, 10 to be exact.”
After beginning with storage vaults for the back of trucks that were designed to deliver payloads safely and securely on road trips, it was the natural progression for a pair of passionate dog lovers to design and construct a dog kennel to the same standards. The first kennel — the G1 with pin-locking door — has evolved into the Dakota 283 options we love today.
In military application, practicality and durability are prizes attributes and those are exactly what Greg has sought to bring to the variety of products that Dakota 283 has introduced to the pet market. His goal was to build a kennel that was durable and impact resistance for safety, but it had to be practical in weight and use of space. “People need versatility in a kennel. You move them around, switch vehicles, bring it in hotel rooms, and style means something so it should look like it is part of your lifestyle. We want the best for our dogs and we want to fit into a tailgate lifestyle.”
The company motto, “Unparalleled Pet Protection,” has spurred further innovation into food and water storage, practical accessories, vehicle storage, and, more recently, the Hero Kennel that was designed in collaboration with former Navy Seal Mike Ritland for military and law enforcement use.
“Dakota 283 was created to give people products that stand the test of time for their dogs. I love my dogs as much as anyone loves their dogs, it is a personal relationship not just a pet. Dakota 283 makes products that fit the dog culture perfectly. Our goal for everything we make is to have products that work in difficult environments. They are tools that should not be worried about, light and easy to transport while being tough when they need to be tough. People should not have to worry about the function of their products.”
Jane added, “Dakota isn’t work for me, it’s just an opportunity to use my innate passions and spend time with my husband and dogs. We feed off each other’s excitement! And the idea to develop a Dakota 283 way of life that we can share with others through our products and adventures is truly important to us!”
Dakota 283 continues to innovate with the tailgate lifestyle in mind. Their kennels and water and food systems are capable of handling the harshest conditions in the back of a hunting truck in mid-winter as well as children in a minivan on family vacation. Their storage vaults offer protection for anything from expensive camera equipment to hunting shotguns and ammo. Dakota 283 builds products for practical use and application that fits into the adventurous lifestyles lived from the backs of SUVs, trucks, and cars. This, ultimately, is the Dakota 283 lifestyle that Greg and Jane not only live, but seek to enhance.