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Scappoose Bay Kayaking in talks with Next Adventure

Popoular Portland outdoor store could drive new wave of recreational tourism for county


by: SPOTLIGHT PHOTO: ROBIN JOHNSON - Steve Gibons, co-owner of Scappoose Bay Kayaking, inspects the banks of Scappoose Creek where, he says, wildlife such as beavers and nutria make their homes.After 12 years of running a successful kayak touring, retail and rental business in Scappoose Bay, Steve and Bonnie Gibons, owners of Scappoose Bay Kayaking, will be selling their business to Next Adventure, a popular outdoor recreation retail store in Portland.

Steve Gibons described the sale on Tuesday as a “marriage” between the two companies.

Gibons said that, despite taking more than 50,000 people on kayak tours over the past 12 years, a number he claims to be very proud of, the presence of a Next Adventure-owned kayak store and touring center could potentially draw more traffic from Portland and stimulate the local economy.

“They have the people, but don’t have the destination,” Gibons said. “We have the destination, but don’t have the people.”

Columbia County Commissioner Tony Hyde said he was excited about the change of ownership and potential boost to the area’s economy. He said it fits nicely with other recent endeavors, including construction of a new RV campground at Scappoose Bay Marina.

“We’ve known for a long time that we’ve had a really great business cluster in regard to outdoor sports along the waterfront, and this seems like the next step,” Hyde said. “It’s pretty exciting, especially with the new campground. We’re always excited to have people come to Columbia County, spend a bunch of money, then go home.”

The Next Adventure management, including owners, were at a week-long event in Texas and were unavailable for comment.

Gibons said Next Adventure will be partnering with Scappoose Bay Kayaking within the next 60 days with the ultimate plan to take over the company.

Bru Benoist, who has known Gibons since 1988 and helped start Scappoose Bay Kayaking in 2001, will remain general manager through the sale, and Scappoose Bay Kayaking will keep its current staff. “The marriage is one where I can stay involved and watch younger, more eager people take over.” Gibons said, “It will always be Scappoose Bay Kayaking, not Next Adventure, they’ll just support the business.”

While the staff and business location will remain unchanged, Gibons said he is excited for the changes that the new ownership will bring about. Where Scappoose Bay Kayaking used to hold demo days (events where product manufacturers truck in their entire product line for locals to try out), Gibons said whole weekends will eventually be devoted to demos, attracting more people from throughout the Portland metropolitan area and taking advantage of the new RV park on the Port of St. Helens-owned property. Other possibilities include adding music and catered food to the mix.

Next Adventure specializes in retail customer service, Gibons explained, whereas the tour guides at Scappoose Bay Kayaking are focused on delivering an experience to their patrons.

He said the partnership and sale will likely strengthen the two specialties for the soon-to-be merged companies.

Under the ownership of Next Adventure, Scappoose Bay Kayaking will continue to hold tours and potentially run them more often.

Next Adventure owners have also expressed interest in a partnership to hold tours abroad in Belize and Hawaii, where Gibons and his wife have led kayaking tours for the last five years, Gibons said.

Scappoose Bay Kayaking also hopes to hold kayak fishing competitions and events in the bay, adding to the customer base the current tours already draw.

Benoist said one of the prospects he is most excited about in regard to the business endeavor is the focus on fishing events.

Gibons said the Next Adventure influence will also capitalize on the growing paddle board market. Currently, Scappoose Bay Kayaking has nine paddle boards. That number will likely double under the new ownership, Gibbons said.

In addition to bolstering the retail of the business, Scappoose Bay Kayaking will hold more tours, including weekend sunrise paddles and early morning weekday paddles.

Scappoose Bay Kayaking currently holds multiple lessons and tours within Scappoose Bay, into the Multnomah Channel and through parts of the Columbia River.

Gibons said, with the sale of the business, he hopes to maintain an influence on many facets of the company to preserve what he, his wife and Benoist have created over the years.

“I’m 65, I’m ready to back off a bit,” Gibons said. “I don’t want to retire, I just want to maybe work less and use my brain a little more.”