Where have all the kayak shops gone?

Maybe it’s just me but it seems like suddenly I’m aware of a number of kayak shops and small manufacturers that are closing their doors — or have done so within the last few months. Country Canoeist (NH), Great River Outfitters (sold and moved to RI), Raven Works Kayaks (PA), Norcan Kayaks (Quebec), Noyo Pacific Outfitters (CA), Mariner Kayaks (WA), and Baidarka Boats (AK) all have owners who are moving on — with GRO the only one that looks to be remaining open under new ownership.

What other shops are closing? Any new shops opening? Is there a trend? And, if so, what might be the reasons for it?” I posted the above on Paddling.net and received 13 responses. Big box stores, the economy, mismanagement, and the de-evolution of the sport toward mass-produced cheap plastic “blub” boats were cited as reasons for the slow disappearance of small independent kayak shops.

Some mentioned that in at least some cases shop owners had decided to make lifestyle changes and move on — something they are certainly entitled to do. But if a business is economically viable, it gets bought by someone else who keeps the doors open. Unfortunately, this doesn’t seem to be what is happening.

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