Confluence Watersports has sold its majority interest in Pro Canoe and Kayak, a Greensboro, N.C.-based paddlesport retailer with three locations, to former Confluence CEO Andy Zimmerman. Justin Evans, Pro Canoe’s General Manager and COO, is also a minority investor along with several others.
Pro Canoe, which reported annual sales of $3 million in a recent Business Journal article, is getting a cash infusion from Zimmerman and other investors to the tune of $400,000, which is being spent on new paint, new fixtures, in-store imagery, a big-screen TV in Greensboro for customers to watch paddlesport videos, computer access to the Internet for customers, and restocking shelves, among other renovations that can be completed in-season without disruption.
Zimmerman, who acknowledges that he tried to keep Confluence’s ownership of Pro Canoe a secret while he was CEO at the company so as not to “overly concern paddlesport retailers who did business with Confluence,” told SNEWS that he is excited about being a mentor for a new retail environment.
“I am not going to be involved in the day-to-day part of the business,” says Zimmerman, now CEO of Pro Canoe. “However, I would like to think I am affecting how the day-to-day is done.”
And, while Zimmerman is the majority owner of Pro Canoe right now, he told SNEWS that he has left lots of room for current and future employees to have a share of the company.
SNEWS View: Confluence’s ownership of Pro Canoe has been a dirty little secret for years now, and we have no idea why. All Zimmerman had to do was say, “We own it,” and move on. Instead, the veil created a bit of mystery, whispering, and intrigue that was frankly silly. Consulting our history books — ones chock full of interview notes and industry feedback — Zimmerman had a long-time relationship with the former owner of Pro Canoe and indeed used the store to eliminate blems, discontinued products, and overstock items. When that owner came to Zimmerman with the announcement he was going to sell, Zimmerman was naturally concerned that his “gentleman’s agreement” not to undercut or compete with established retailers would go by the wayside, and that is how Confluence became an owner of a retail establishment. Justin Evans ran the show on the front end and was, according to Zimmerman, under orders not to undercut retailers or go into another retailer’s backyard during the entire time Confluence owned Pro Canoe. Of course, Pro Canoe had a Web presence (www.procanoe.com), and that was sore spot for a number of retailers who kept SNEWS in the information loop insisting that Confluence was competing with them in that manner. The good news is all that finger pointing and grumbling can now stop. Confluence, which has never denied owning Pro Canoe under the new company’s new ownership, can operate unencumbered by retail distraction. Pro Canoe can now move forward and diversify its brand presence without worrying about Confluence. That’s good all the way around.