Citing financial numbers that just don;t add up, Jersey Paddler recently announced that its heralded Jersey Paddlesports Show — a long-running consumer paddlesports show in Brick, N.J., second in size only to Madison, Wisc.’s annual Canoecopia — will be cancelling its event this March.
“The simple answer is that it was a business decision,” says Jersey Paddler COO Rich Hage of the East Coast’s largest kayak, canoe and outdoor consumer show. “Each of the last two years the show fell below what is the breakeven point and it no longer made sense from a business standpoint.”
The company also closed its brick and mortar store for a month this winter, before re-opening on Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays heading into spring. Hage says the store is planning to resume full-time hours later this spring.
The second biggest specialty paddlesports retailer in the country, Jersey Paddler’s Jersey Paddlesport Show has been held the third weekend in March for the past 47 years, serving as one of the boating industry’s biggest barometers of the season ahead. A long- and well-established family-owned business, The Jersey Paddler was founded in 1958 by Walter Durrua at the site of his father’s gas station in Brick, NJ. In 1991, the store moved to its present 7,200-square-foot site on the corner of Rt. 70 and Rt. 88, just next to the original store, where it remains one of the largest canoe and kayak stores in the country stocking over 1,000 new and used boats year-round.
Like water filling a void, the emptiness the cancellation creates in the consumer tradeshow world is quickly being absorbed by existing shows, foremost of which is Rutabaga’s Canoecopia in Madison, historically held the weekend before Jersey Paddlesports.
“I’m not sure we’ll see a huge increase in attendance from the cancellation of Jersey Paddlesport, as they’re 1,000 miles from here,” says Rutabaga owner Darren Bush of this spring’s Canoecopia show. “But I have heard from some people as far away as Maryland who said they’ll be coming this year. We’ll probably pick up a few sales, but nothing too significant.”
Bush adds he expects this year’s sales at Canoecopia to grow 5 to 10 percent over last year, but that attendance, while also expected to grow, “is completely up to the weather.” As usual, this year’s Canoecopia will have more than 85 speakers giving presentations and seminars in the 150,000-square-foot exhibit hall and will once again serve as the industry’s “first real test of the year as to what moves well this season.” So far, adds Bush, fishing kayaks and sups continue to lead the charge.
New York’s Mountainman Outdoors is also upping its consumer show presence, rebranding and combining its 18-year-old Adirondack Paddlefest and Saratoga Springs Paddlefest into a single event, New York Paddlefest and Outdoor Expo, to be held over two weekends in May. The event in Saratoga Springs will be held April 30 – May 1; and the Old Forge, N.Y., show will be held May 20-22.
“We’re anticipating a significant increase in attendance at our shows particularly in Saratoga Springs in late April,” says Mountainman president John Nemjo. “When I attended the Jersey Paddler Show in 1999 before our first event, people said they’d be coming to ours because they could test paddle boats beforehand. I think more people will be heading our way because of the cancellation of the Jersey event.”
But Nemjo has fond memories of the Jersey show as well. “I purchased my second canoe ever from Jersey Paddler in 1982 and have rented canoes from them and discussed the paddling industry with them,” he says. “Being a New Jersey native myself, I’ve respected their operation for years and to a large degree patterned my business after theirs.
And having attended their show numerous times and sending staff there to learn and work for various vendors, its loss creates a large void in the paddlesports industry and community. We wish everyone there all the best and great success in whatever direction they take their business going forward.”