Alder Creek Kayak & Canoe under new ownership

After 18 years in the retail paddlesports business, Alder Creek Kayak & Canoe owners Steve and Cindy Scherrer, and Keith Jensen, have sold the Portland, Ore.-based, business to two former employees, Jim Miller and Dave Slover.
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After 18 years in the retail paddlesports business, Alder Creek Kayak & Canoe owners Steve and Cindy Scherrer, and Keith Jensen, have sold the Portland, Ore.-based, business to two former employees, Jim Miller and Dave Slover.

Both Miller and Slover worked at Alder Creek in the '90s. Miller ended up moving on to another retail job at Rendezvous River Sports in Jackson Hole, Wyo., and then working with Watermark for the last three years developing the company's retail training programs. Slover is the owner of All Star Rafting based out of Maupin, Ore.

Miller told SNEWS® that owning Alder Creek, or a part of it, is something both he and Slover have dreamed about.

The Scherrers intend to stay involved in paddlesports by focusing on boat design for Wilderness Systems and operating a paddlesports instruction co-op for intermediate and advanced level touring paddlers.

Jensen will be staying involved in the company as a project coordinator for a new Alder Creek rental and retail location soon to be opened at the "Portland Boathouse," which will be located in the old Holman Building along the eastside of the Willamette River in downtown Portland near the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry.

"Eventually, when the green space is finished, customers will be able to walk right out our door, across the green space, and down to a dock to launch their boats," Miller told us. "We hope to have the location open by Thanksgiving at the earliest, and certainly by the first of the year."

The boathouse will be Alder's third location. Currently, the business operates a main store in Portland and another store in Bend, Ore. The Bend store accounts for approximately 25 percent of the company's revenue with sales that continue to increase in concert with the population, according to Miller.

The new owners plan to continue operations with a focus on carrying a large variety of quality merchandise and offering superb customer service.

"We won't make many changes," Miller told us. "One of the biggest things we are bringing is a needed infusion of cash that will allow us to quickly reduce the vendor debt load and bring in more new product. We have key staff in both Bend and Portland that are exceptional and we feel very fortunate."

When asked if Alder Creek might expand into other areas besides paddling, Miller allowed that he and Slover had looked at things they might be able to do to increase sales counter-seasonally, but for now will focus on paddlesports only.

"Historically, our strength is paddlesports retail, rental, lessons and tours, so it makes sense for us to focus on what we are good at and known for," Miller said.

SNEWS® View: Not so very long ago, Alder Creek was considered the big player in the Northwest -- the kind of retailer that vendors lined up to meet with at Summer Market. But for whatever reason, in the last few years the company got behind with a number of vendors and even lost a few lines -- like Dagger, for example. Bringing in new blood and new cash is a good thing, without a doubt. With the right injection of new product, new energy and new merchandising, it is quite possible that Alder Creek can return to its glory days. Certainly, Alder has much more competition than it once did, with stores like the Kayak Shed in Hood River hauling in former Alder customers like fish on a hook. Miller and Slover must make their stores a focal point of the community, especially in Bend, where paddlers feel invited and welcomed to hang out and talk shop, or meet for paddling trips. Listening to Miller's energy on the phone, and from what we know of Slover, there is no reason to doubt that Alder will soon be back. Congrats to them both…now, time to roll up the sleeves and really start working.

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