Sanborn Canoe Co. bringing Merrimack Canoes to Minnesota

Merrimack Canoes will continue to be made thanks to Minnesota's Sanborn Canoe Co. // Photo courtesy of Merrimack Canoes

Merrimack Canoes will continue to be made thanks to Minnesota’s Sanborn Canoe Co. // Photo courtesy of Merrimack Canoes

What’s a paddle without a canoe? Or a canoe without a paddle?

Sanborn Canoe Co., known for their handcrafted canoe paddles, always planned to add handcrafted canoes to their product line. After recently acquiring Merrimack Canoes, one of the nation’s oldest canoe makers, they are one step closer to achieving their goal.

According to Sanborn co-founder Todd Randall, the owner of Merrimack decided to sell the canoe company to focus on his other ventures, but he wasn’t looking for just anyone to sell to.

“[He] wanted Merrimack to find a good home with people who valued what the company was about,” says Randall. “So, he approached Sanborn about buying the company.”

The chance to keep a heritage brand like Merrimack Canoes alive immediately resonated with Randall and Sanborn co-owner Zak Fellman. They decided to offer a partnership in Merrimack to any of Sanborn’s current employees and a few jumped at the chance. Together they purchased the company and moved all the canoe forms, templates, and equipment from Merrimack’s facility in South Carolina to Sanborn’s home base outside of Winona, Minnesota.

Todd Randall and Zak Fellman of Sanborn Canoe Co.

Todd Randall and Zak Fellman of Sanborn Canoe Co. // Photo © Barbara O’Brien Photography

But the company still has a way to go before production can start. They are currently seeking to raise $40,000 through a Kickstarter campaign to get the equipment out of storage and canoes rolling out the door. With 34 days to go, the campaign has exceeded the goal, raising over $52,000.

“Getting everything up and running will take some work. For one, we need to find a workshop. We believe we’ve found the right spot, but it’ll need to be outfitted for the work. Part of that is air exchange, dust collection, and potentially a spray booth,” Randall explains. The other need is staffing. With Sanborn Canoe Co. working hard to fill the demand for paddles, they’ll need to find and hire a separate team of builders to work on the canoes.

Luckily, they have a lead on two potential hires. “[B]oth mine and Zak’s dads retired this past year and are itching for something to do and plan to make the majority of the boats initially. To me, this is one of the funnest things going. Three generations of the same family built Merrimack canoes since 1954. Now two generations of our family will be involved.

“At its heart, Merrimack is a family business. The original family who started the company in 1954 and built boats until the 2000’s is no longer directly involved, but we’ve been in touch and know they still love the company and everything it’s about. We want to keep that heritage alive.”

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