Headwaters Outfitters Repurchased by Original Owner


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In a world where retail is increasingly moving toward conglomeration and online sales, specialty paddlesports retailer Headwaters Outfitters is actually bringing things full circle and maintaining their focus on local service and conservation down on the French Broad River in Tennessee.

The French Broad is considered the third oldest river in the world. Called the “Long Man” by the native Cherokees, the French Broad flows 213 miles into the Holston River in Knoxville, Tenn., forming the Tennessee River.

Locally renowned Headwaters Outfitters has been sold back to the paddling and fly fishing center’s founders.

Debi and David Whitmire resumed ownership of the only full-service paddling, fly fishing, tubing and hiking operation in Transylvania County this month. The Whitmires and friends started the business as a modest canoe livery service in 1992. Headwaters later moved from downtown Rosman to the intersection of Highway’s 64 and 215 at the confluence of the West and North Forks of the French Broad River.

Sid Cullipher, who had been program director at Headwaters, purchased the business two years ago but died less than a year later. The Cullipher family, led by Sid’s father, Jim, and widow, Nonnie, continued Headwaters Outfitters after Sid’s death.

“All who knew and loved Sid are still shaken by his passing as we remember his vision and his devotion to Headwaters and the French Broad,” Debi Whitmire said. “This new chapter for Headwaters will take us to another level of river adventure and customer service.”

Headwaters features a contemporary, mountain lodge style retail shop with a classroom and multimedia center. The store offers a wide selection of high-end canoes, kayaks, fly fishing gear, guide service, outdoor accessories and clothing. Several downstream locations provide canoe-in camping for more than 30 people so they can go to sleep to the river’s lullaby and launch their adventures steps from the water.

The Whitmires and their daughter Jessica Merrill will operate Headwaters with the help of river hosts, fly fishing guides and other staff members.

Debi Whitmire has served as interim CEO and an executive board member of the Professional Paddlesports Association.

“We mainly started Headwaters to create employment opportunities for local kids,” David Whitmire said. “We loved and still love paddling and fishing, we had this gorgeous river in our backyard and nobody was running trips down it. Our challenge now is to match the wonders of this river with the interests of new generations, both visitors and locals. We will be introducing some new concepts in the coming months. We will do our part to protect and enhance the river. You can be assured that the foundation of high customer satisfaction will grow and grow.”

Strong supporters of the French Broad Paddling Trail of primitive campsites, Headwaters Outfitters also organizes river cleanups each spring and fall. The 2014 spring cleanup will be May 17.

“Headwaters Outfitters is in strong, loving hands,” former owner Jim Cullipher said. “Since its creation, Headwaters has been a family operation with good people devoting themselves to its success.”

Nonnie Cullipher added, “The Cullipher family is proud of how Headwaters grew on our watch and delighted that the Whitmires have resumed ownership.”

For more information contact Headwaters Outfitters at (828) 877-3106 or visit www.HeadwatersOutfitters.com.

Staff Post
Staff Posthttps://paddlinglife.com
Paddlers writing about all things paddling.


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