Hemlock Canoe, maker of highly regarded composite solo canoes, is looking for a buyer.
While the likes of Mike Galt, Phil Siggelkow and others have been instrumental in modern solo canoe designs and innovations from the 1970s onward, it’s Curtis/Hemlock Canoe founder Dave Curtis (and his wife, Carol) who have been at it the longest and most continuously. But now they’re looking for someone else to take the reins so the business can carry on in good hands.
Paddling Life got ahold of their “For Sale” notice, which we’ve paraphrased below:
“The Curtis/Hemlock Canoe name is well known throughout the paddling community over the past 45 yeas. We have been instrumental in the development of our line of premium third-generation composite canoe with models that fit most any need. Specifically, we are of the original few who helped develop the modern solo canoe vision which has become mainstream in today’s canoeing world. We would like to transition into retirement. We are looking for an energetic, passionate, goal-oriented person who would like to join our business. We are willing to provide instruction into every nuance necessary to carry on our tradition. There can be the possibility of a buy-out or we can offer a chance to buy in and make a nice living building U.S.-made products with care, pride and great craftsmanship…” —Sincerely, Dave and Carol Curtis.
Indeed, Hemlock canoes have a vast following. “Those elegant solo ’70s and ’80s canoes are still sought after on the used market,” says longtime canoeist and Hemlock aficionado Mike McCrae. “It would be a shame to see solo canoes like the water-dancer Mayfly, the sporty Eaglet and the Harold Deal SRT vanish from the marketplace. I’d hate to see the Hemlock/Curtis line go the way of Blackhawk, Sawyer, Colden and others who once made fine solo canoes.”
McCrae even found a 1986 catalog from Curtis Canoe/Canoe Specialists, the predecessor to Hemlock, which he perused when he got the news. “I had forgotten some classic Curtis hulls that were influential in solo canoeing and Freestyle,” he says. “The 13’ 8” Lady Bug, and the smaller person’s version of the Lady Bug, the Mayfly (12’ 5”); the still sought-after Nomad (15’ 4”); and the Vagabond (14’ 8”), likewise, are all still desirable. The Dragonfly (14’ 6”), designed for downriver and slalom combined whitewater. And the Solo Tripper (15’ 7”) was designed to do just what the name implies.”
A look at the company’s website instills the pride Davie and Carol put into each of their products. “The canoes we manufacture are designed and built by paddlers,” its opening page reads. “All were developed as a result of extensive experimentation, paddling and tripping under a variety of conditions. All are meticulously hand built in our shop using the finest materials. We feel that in this way we can offer the best designs and craftsmanship together with the most modern materials and technology to create a very special canoe.”
And the company only sells direct, bypassing dealers. “We encourage you to contact us directly at our shop which is also our retail location,” they advise. “We do not sell through any domestic dealers or distributors. In this way we are better able to assist and consult with you on your specific needs and to answer any questions directly. It is our desire that you have exactly the right canoe and we feel by dealing directly with you we may accomplish that. If you are within driving distance of Hemlock please visit us. We always have demo models for you to test paddle. A visit to the Finger Lakes area of Western New York is always enjoyable any time of year!”
And then comes the company’s mission statement: “Our mission is to provide quality canoes, canoeing equipment, related products and services to outdoor minded people in a manner which enhances the quality of life for our owners, employees, customers, associates and suppliers. In doing so, we will deal with honesty and integrity, reflecting that people are more important than dollars and that our purpose is to bring honor and credit to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”
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