Bending Branches/Aqua Bound owner Ed Vater has sold the company to an in-house team and is retiring, the company reports. Based in Osceola, Wisconsin, Vater, who has worked at the company for 20 years and bought it in 2015, sold the company to longtime employees Jason Eccles, Brian Boyea, and Cory Novinska. Eccles, who has been with the company for 20 years, is the company’s new president.
Branches was founded in 1982 by Dale Kicker and Ron Hultman, who invented their “Rockguard” tip protection for canoe paddles. They moved the business from St. Paul to Osceola in 1994, where it remains today. The company was sold to businessman Mark Kravik in 2001, before being sold to Vater in 2015.
“I have worked alongside so many wonderful people over the last 35 years,” he says. “From the trade coalitions, to the retailers, to our employees – the whole industry is such a uniquely warm and welcoming environment. It is one that I’m glad to have played a part in. It’s the people here that make the difference. Our culture has helped develop not only our company, but also our community, into a wonderful place to work, live and play. That is rare, and something I’m immensely proud of.”
Some of highlights over the past two decades include: introducing lean manufacturing, discontinuing hockey sticks in pursuit of kayak paddles (now over 80% of the business), acquiring Aqua Bound (formerly a major competitor), winning the ‘Manufacturer of the Year’ from the Twin Cities based Manufacturers Alliance, introducing key new products in canoeing, kayaking, kayak fishing, and stand-up paddles, and creating a winning team and culture at Branches.