Making official what SNEWS® had heard rumored weeks ago, Bending Branches, based in Osceola, Wis., completed the acquisition of Aqua-Bound Technology based in Surrey, B.C., Canada. The deal closed on December 17, and the terms were not announced.
Joe Matuska, founder of Aqua-Bound, told SNEWS® that he will be staying on for at least two years to help ensure the transition is smooth and to get back into focusing on what he really enjoys, designing and testing product, not pushing paper.
Matuska told us that Ed Vater, president of Bending Branches, approached him during the 2008 Outdoor Retailer Summer Market. “Ed’s always coming by, checking the latest products and visiting. This time, he asked if I might be interested in selling.”
Vater added that what he saw in Aqua-Bound, beyond just high-quality product is a similar culture and a commitment to excellent product and service. “We both feel that an independent and privately owned business that is not beholden to stock holders is able to provide a personal touch missing from many businesses,” said Vader. He added that during the due-diligence process, it became evident that Aqua-Bound was not utilizing all of the capacity of its injection molding machines either, which is something that will be maximized with the new merged companies.
And, as Matuska pointed out, this is a very good thing for Aqua-Bound retailers in terms of getting product more efficiently too. “With all manufacturing and distribution being done from the Midwest, I can reach any retailer with 3-day UPS ground, whereas to reach customers on the East coast for us now takes a week and a day.”
Aqua-Bound will be transitioning all customer service, sales and manufacturing operations to the Bending Branches headquarters in Wisconsin between January and July 2009. Overall, approximately 24 folks will lose their jobs in Canada as a result, and conversely, 24 or more new jobs will be added to the Bending Branches payroll.
“A transition team will be working with Aqua-Bound to ensure that customer service, manufacturing and quality control remain at the highest standard,” Gregg Gunderman, sales manager for Bending Branches, told SNEWS. He added that the company fully expects to retain the same rep force to ensure continuity.
“Our stock levels of Aqua-Bound product are high, and we recognize that anyone in the industry looking at this deal will be doing so with an eye to how we perform,” said Gunderman. “If we screw up, they will notice it right away and let us know. We are doing everything to make sure our retailers are exceedingly happy.”
Bending Branches, known for its high-end wood paddles, has been manufacturing canoe and kayak paddles since 1982. Aqua-Bound, credited as the first company to utilize gas-assist injection molding technology in the manufacture of kayak paddles, has been manufacturing kayak paddles since 1991.
SNEWS® View: We checked in with a few top paddlesports retailers around the country who echoed our sentiments – great merger of two fantastic brands! For years now, both have been recognized for manufacturing and shipping great products. Both have set a very high bar for customer service excellence, and typically meet or exceed it each year. One retailer told us, “This is great for the industry and retailers. They are two fantastic companies making competing products in a very crowded market. Now, instead of two smaller checks, I get to write one big check.”
For the history buffs in the crowd, prior to Aqua-Bound, Matuska founded Nimbus Kayaks in 1974, selling it to his partner in 1990 before taking a year off and then launching Aqua-Bound.
We’re sure Bruce at Werner is still picking himself up off the floor on this one, but all things considered, this will likely have little effect on Werner’s business. Others in the paddle business – well, we’re not so sure.