Whenever kayakers in Hood River needed an extra paddle – say they lost one on a waterfall or spaced it out at home – they were never far from a spare. They’d simply swing by the headquarters for AT, makers of one of the best composite blades in the world, and be on their way. Now that conduit is gone. It came to a screeching halt at the end of July when parent company Confluence, which also owns such brands as Dagger, Perception, Mad River, Wilderness Systems and WaveSport, decided to uproot AT from its Northwest home and move it in with the rest of its operations in Easley, S.C. PL checks in with those in the know…
The move came after Confluence decided to create an Independent Accessories Division, combining its Harmony and AT brands, to bolster their performance. The casualty for Hood River boaters is Adventure Technology (AT), the company’s top-end paddle manufacturer, which is now heading east to join the rest of the Confluence brands in Easley. The move also means that several local AT employees not wishing to make the move are out a job.
“We see huge potential in what we can offer our retail partners if we nurture and commit to these brands (AT and Harmony) with focused attention and unified leadership,” says Confluence CEO Sue Rechner, adding that AT will continue to be a boutique brand known for innovation, quality and quick turnaround and continue to push the bounds of design, materials and fabrication in the high performance sector.
She adds that while the new division consists of Harmony and AT, each brand will maintain its distinct identity and autonomy. Though housed in the same building, each brand will maintain separate production areas, equipment and production teams. In Easley, AT will have full access to the Confluence Design and R&D teams, offering an exciting opportunity to maximize the potential of this iconic brand.
“Moving AT from Hood River to South Carolina has economic benefits,” says Rechner. “We sincerely regret that three jobs will be lost in Hood River due to the transition. On the positive side, the move encouraged us to take a renewed look at our accessories options. A central, focused division gives new vitality to the individual brands; and we expect it will ultimately reduce our retail partners’ shipping costs.”
Chris Pageau, previously with fBlack & Decker and Ingersoll-Rand, has been hired as general manager to lead the new division. “We’re pleased to have Chris join the team at an early stage in the process. He brings an energy and expertise that will benefit this important sector and keep focus on maximizing the respective brands’ heritages.”
However much economic sense the move makes, however, it’s a blow to locals who have come to love having AT in their backyard. “It’s a big blow to the paddling community in Hood River,” says local kayak instructor Sam Drevo. “AT was started out here, and the innovators live here. It doesn’t exactly employ a lot of paddlers, but it has employed many influential ones, including Dan Gavere, Tom Fredrick, Jason Bowerman and Nate Herbeck. The move is going to be interesting–it isn’t exactly easy to make those paddles.
“I can understand why Confluence made the decision,” he adds, “but it certainly doesn’t benefit the Hood River community.”
Indeed, locals held a whopping going away bash for the brand in late July, drawing kayakers from across the county. “It was a rager,” says current women’s waterfall record-holder Christie Glissmeyer, who heard about the bash after a trip to British Columbia. “Pretty much everyone was there. It’s a bummer to see the company leave.”