PADDLING BUSINESSstream: Owner Of River And Trail On The One Big Leap Behind His Success | Adventure Kayak Magazine | Rapid Media
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CAREFUL PLANNING AND TOTAL COMMITMENT ARE SEAN CREARY’S KEYS TO SUCCESS. MARK HEMMINGS

The planning that gave Sean Creary the confidence to take the next step

PADDLING BUSINESSstream
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HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN IN THE PADDLESPORTS RETAIL BUSINESS?

Six years this September. I’d been a rowing coach and ran the watersports nonprofit, Genessee Waterways Center in New York, but my wife—girlfriend at the time—couldn’t work in the States, so I went to work in the pharmaceutical industry for 12 years. The money was good but it never fit my personality. I started looking for an exit plan, and that brought me back to my roots.

WHY OUTSIDE THE CITY OF ST. JOHN?

Well I grew up here. But I also realized there’s an outdoor specialty store in almost every city in North America, except here. I thought an outdoor retail store could work in St. John, but not just with a focus on paddlesports. We’re not a huge market and we have a short paddling season, so we have to be pretty diverse in our offerings.

TELL ME ABOUT YOUR MARKET RESEARCH

I made the decision two years before we actually opened our doors. My time in the pharmaceutical business taught me the importance of planning. I took a lot of time and effort doing my homework, but eventually I just had to jump off the cliff.

HOW WAS THE LANDING?

We’ve been profitable since our first year, and we’re still seeing double-digit growth. Part of this comes down to what we’ve done in our community. We’ve fostered more of an outdoor culture in our area, but I think our timing was right too. We doubled our retail floor space a little over a year ago. The foot is always on the gas pedal.

WHAT’S UNIQUE ABOUT THE ST. JOHN REGION?

We have the Bay of Fundy, which has the highest tides in the world. We have all kinds of lakes and the Kennebecasis and St. John rivers. We have a Reversing Falls, which is amazing for whitewater playboating, but the vast majority of our business is on the recreational side. We sell a lot of kayaks in the 12-to-14-foot range. Standup paddleboarding is really taking off too. We only started standup three years ago and this year it almost surpassed our kayaks sales.

WHAT ABOUT FISHING?

This year we decided to get a small inventory of fishing kayaks and see if the tire kickers were really going to pull the trigger. Just like standup, we’re a little behind the trend, but kayak fishing is the biggest growth segment of paddlesports now.

WHAT’S YOUR COMPETITION?

Around the corner is a Canadian Tire, and there’s a Costco in town as well. We have to help customers understand why they should pay a little extra for service and quality. People compare the kayaks we sell to the kayaks in Canadian Tire, and think they’re both apples. It’s our job to explain one’s a crabapple and the other is a nice juicy MacIntosh.

 

This article orginally appeared in the 2018 annual edition of Paddling BusinessRead the full issue here.

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