Clintonville is home to a new specialty shop for kayakers and camping enthusiasts. Bret Chumley opened Columbus Kayak in October of 2013 to fill a gap he saw in the market.
Although there are plenty of places to kayak across Columbus and the state, Chumley didn’t see a lot of local love for the sport, so he took matters into his own hands. A love for his hobby and a drive to create his own business eventually led to the specialized storefront.
However, with a reach of more than just kayaks, shoppers can expect to find other unique and high-end camping gear. And while winter in Ohio typically doesn’t conjure up images of spending lots of time outdoors, Chumley said local reception has been great.
We recently asked Chumley to tell us more about the store and dish on great local kayaking spots.
Q: Tell us about your background as it relates to Columbus Kayak and how the store started.
Columbus Kayak started forming as a business idea in September of 2012. I had recently fallen in love with kayaking as my new hobby, and I was finding a lack of support locally for paddle sports, such as kayaking. As I did more research, I started compiling lists of potential brands that have little to no distribution in Ohio. As this list grew, I went full throttle in turning this pipe dream into reality.
I graduated from Kent State in 2003 with a degree in Finance. I held a few managerial jobs between then and now, but the whole time was wishing to one day start my own business. Once I found a way to connect my work experience with my passion, it was a must-do venture.
Q: Obviously you have kayaks, but what goods and services will customers find at Columbus Kayak?
The real mission of the store is kayaks and camping. I have always loved high-end gadgets, be it electronics, stereo systems, or now, outdoor sporting goods. I have carefully selected products that I found to be unique and innovative, including solar power products from Goal Zero and a folding origami boat from Oru Kayak. I also proudly carry Gibbon Slacklines, whose products are paving the way to mainstream the sport of slacklining. Kids love to slackline, and people of all types can benefit from the fitness involved in balancing on the line. And, it’s great fun to set up at your camp site!
Q: What made Columbus a good location to open a kayak shop?
Columbus deserves a dedicated paddling shop! Kayaking is a growing sport, and anyone can get involved. For those new to the sport, Columbus Kayak is a must-see! Our selection is second to none, and every customer will receive the enthusiasm and support that they deserve. Plus, Columbus is greatly supportive of small local business. My wife and I have lived in Columbus for about 8 years, and really love the area. I am just really glad to be a new business owner here in town. Columbus is awesome!
Q: What has the local reception been like?
Great local support so far! Lots of excitement from the paddling veterans to the first-timers. Clintonville especially has welcomed the store with open arms. It’s a great community with some wonderful people who have already been helping the store grow. I look to really grow those local relationships as the store enters the Spring season in 2014. We would love to organize some paddling groups and trips, and are considering boat rentals and lessons as part of our service.
Q: Where are some good areas to kayak around Columbus?
As I mentioned, Columbus has a wealth of paddling opportunities! To list a few of the closest spots, I would suggest Alum Creek Lake, Hoover Reservoir, Big Darby Creek, the Olentangy & Scioto rivers, Alum Creek and Big Walnut Creek. And to venture a hour or so from here, you can enjoy many more options including Little Miami River, Mad River, Hocking River, Paint Creek, Raccoon Creek, Licking River, Kokosing River and many more.
Q: Long-term, how do you think the construction and work on the Olentangy River will affect your business and the interest in kayaking in Columbus?
I think the work on the Olentangy is great for everyone, including us kayakers! There is a real push nationwide to remove some of these dams that are often causing more harm than good. I feel that Columbus will continue to embrace our local waters, and continue to improve conditions for clean and healthy waterways.
Q: Anything else you would like to add?
As a bootstrapped, first-time business owner, I’m truly thankful for the support of our community. As the business grows, I look to only further my involvement locally in many ways.
Also, our selection from Jackson Kayak and NuCanoe can be seen at our retail store, open 6 days a week. The NuCanoe brand of kayaks are all made here in Ashtabula, Ohio!
For more information, visit columbus-kayak.com.