A History of Net Work
Bill Kiel and the fifth generation, Kellyn.
There aren’t a lot of second- or third-generation companies in any industry, but the team sports business is blessed by the fourth-generation of one of its key suppliers. And this year Carron Net, still a family-owned business since being formed in 1934, is celebrating its 90th year in business. To get the inside story on how the company has survived – and indeed, thrived – all these years, Team Insight caught up with Bill Kiel, the great grandson of Ed Carron and Errina Carron, the first-generation founders of the company, and current CEO of the net manufacturer.

In the beginning … “Carron Net began as what we would describe today as a home-based business making nets for the local commercial fishermen here on the shore of Lake Michigan in Two Rivers, WI.”

The first team sale … “The company got into the sporting goods business by sending out a postcard offering basketball nets for sale. The first order, for one net, was placed by Coach WC Schultz of Delavan High School in Delavan, WI, and the postmark on the card, September 24, 1934, is the date we have always marked as the start of our company as a commercial business.”  

Carron Net in 2024 … “Carron is a leading producer of high-quality nets for sports and material handling safety. We still manufacture nearly every net we sell right here in our factory in Two Rivers, WI.  And much of the work we do in both sectors is custom, meaning we can provide nets that are manufactured to our customers’ exact specifications in the time frame they need them.”  

One pandemic, two markets … “Sporting goods and industrial nets are two very diverse and divergent markets, something that really benefited us during the recent pandemic experience. As we all well know, sports in the United States were, for all intents and purposes, cancelled. Had that been all we do, we might not have survived it. Fortunately for us, the pandemic caused explosive growth in demand for warehouse and distribution center capacity and that’s where our industrial netting products are most often used. As such we were able to keep working at full force through the pandemic and have continued to prosper with the return to normalcy in this market since.”

Four generations … “We have always had a strong connection to our customers, our employees and the community of Two Rivers. My father and his partners, the third-generation owners of the business, were contemplating retirement 25 years ago and at that time, there was no one from the next generation active in the business. The company was at a crossroads, with the outcome of it being sold out of family control seeming likely. However my father recognized that the track record in similar situations, both in the industry and here locally, meant that the company continuing in anything like its current form would probably be unlikely. It was at that point that I moved back home and got involved, allowing us to maintain that continuity.”  

The Carron way … “My father helped me understand the value of taking good care of our employees and our clients in me. Those have always been our cornerstones. I feel a high degree of loyalty from both our team and our customers, something I never take for granted.”

No job too large or too small … “That first order for one basketball net kind of established that principle. Even as the company has grown and diversified over the years, supplying nets to some of the world’s largest, most successful corporations and college and professional sports teams, I’m proud of the fact that we still maintain great relationships with the local team dealers that are the heart and soul of the industry. And given the fact that we still manufacture nearly everything we sell right here in Two Rivers, we are one of the few, if not only, netting companies able to provide custom sized nets to the market, something we do a significant volume of every year.”

Kiel’s role … “As anyone who has ever worked for a small or family-run business knows, you wear lots of hats. My primary responsibilities when I started were managing sales and personnel, a fairly disparate set of duties. Over time I’ve added and redistributed multiple sets of responsibilities as I’ve ascended to and embraced the role of CEO. None of this would have been possible without a great team in place and I’m fortunate in that regard.”  

Adapting and changing … “We have modernized our operations significantly in the last 20-plus years. When I started, we were still spinning our own cord, dip treating nets and attaching rope bindings to nearly all of our nets by hand. We have modernized our production equipment, streamlined our production processes and consolidated multiple production locations into one. There have been lots of operational changes, so many so that I’m not sure my dad would recognize the business were he still around.”

Changes in team sports … “The market was very different when I started working at Carron Net in 2000. Most every town still had a local sporting goods store and we were on a first name basis with most all of them. The rise of e-commerce and the massive consolidation of the industry coming out of the Great Recession has really altered that landscape. We still have great relationships with our dealers, but it feels much less personal now than it used to.”

Favorite part of the job … “I’m not sure I’d necessarily call it my favorite part of the job, but one thing I really enjoy about it is how tangible the history of the company is. I sit in the office that was formerly occupied by my great-grandfather, great-uncle and father. Their portraits hang on the walls here. I am very aware of the legacy I have been given the opportunity to uphold.”  

Carron Net in 2024  … “The last couple of years have seen a significant revamp of our production processes. We have realigned operations and integrated technology in ways that we hadn’t previously.”

A fifth generation? … “As matter of fact, my daughter Kellyn joined us full time this past fall after having worked here as a seasonal employee over the past seven years while she was in high school and college. As such she was able to hit the ground running and is already making her impact felt here. I feel lucky to have the opportunity to work with her as I know my dad did with me. I’m confident that when the time comes, she will be capable and up to the task of leading the company forward for a fifth generation, significantly as the first woman to do so in the company’s history.”

The production team in the 1940s.
The production team today.


Edward W. Carron
The beginning of Carron Net according to historical documents goes like this …

In 1933 Norman E. Carron and his father Edward W. Carron started making nets by hand in the kitchen of their home at 1103 Harbor Street, Two Rivers, Wisconsin. They made sucker dip nets and smelt nets and, besides selling them locally, Norman would travel to Green Bay to sell to the Morley Murphy Company and to Milwau­kee to sell to Pritzlaff Hardware and the Frankfort Hardware Company. These were the leading hardware companies at that time. Also about this time Norman, his father and other family members started making basketball nets and a few other sports nets. Mrs. Edward Carron would sew top bindings on nets on her home sewing machine.

They had their first price list printed In 1935 and listed basketball, volleyball, tennis, ice hockey goal, golf practice nets and fishing nets. This list was sent to schools, hardware stores and some sporting goods stores. Each year Norman would go to the local banks to borrow several hundred dollars to buy the necessary inventory to make these nets.