Paddling into the Future

kinnon —  August 30, 2005 — Leave a comment

Earlier in August, while in Nonquitt, Massachusetts, my good friend George convinced me to join him for a little Atlantic kayaking. I got hooked.

While taking our kids up to Muskoka this past weekend we happened to drive by the Muskoka Paddle Shack. They had an end of season sale going on, and we ended up with a tomato coloured Tofino kayak from Clearwater Designs. I’ve spent the last two days enjoying it.Billkayaking2

The Muskoka Paddle Shack is only a five month old business, but Chris and Jay, the proprietors have got a good thing going. They love what they are selling and they have a blast connecting purchasers with what is becoming the fastest growing water sport – kayaking.

We actually went back up to see them today, because Imbi and I have decided that we both love kayaking and want to do it together. We added a banana yellow Tofino to our fleet.

Chris and Jay were in the process of moving their business six miles up Highway 11 to be closer to their competition when we arrived at their new place. They were both up on a hydraulic basket crain installing their new sign – that features their smiling faces on top of stick figures holding paddles – lots of fun and a great representation of who they are.

These guys are building their business primarily through the word-of-mouth of happy customers. Jay told me that what little advertising they’d done had had little effect. Treating their customers with respect and selling them a great product at a fair price was what was growing their business. And because both Chris and Jay had been in the industry for many years – their suppliers were working with them to help them make the business a success. It also helps to be on the main corridor into Ontario’s premiere cottage country.

These guys are at the beginning of creating a Purple Cow – just up the road from the Candy Shoppe, one of the featured retail examples in Seth Godin’s book. (We bought chocolate covered Popcorn from them on our way home. Yummy!) What’s great about the Paddle Shack guys is that it isn’t a "can I help you, store", it’s a "aren’t these boats cool store." They love what they sell and their enthusiasm is infectious.

Kayaking is part of the emergent culture of less is more. Whether it’s moving from Harley’s to Vespas,  SUVs to Prius’s or powerboats to kayaks, there is a profound change happening. The Muskoka Paddle Shack is riding the wave of that change (pun intended) and should do very well.

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The first pictures were taken by Imbi using the camera in her Treo. Her two Panasonic Lumx’s do a much better job. The two kayaks together was taken with my Sony Ericsson 710a cell phone camera – a 1.3MP camera. Good in bright light.



A television editor, writer & director since 1978. A Christian since 1982. More than a little frustrated with the Church in the West since late in the last millennium.

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