Paddle & Trail owner Walter Loos, left, and Therese Oldenburg, operations director, pose in front of the new downtown business.
Just a year or two ago, you’d be hard pressed to find a place to rent kayaks or snowshoes in Beloit. Bikes, yes, thanks to the college’s bike-share program, but that still left an outdoor outfitter/retailer gap. Enter Paddle & Trail.
“There was a larger community group that expressed interest in having an outfitter and retailer here in the Beloit area,” says Walter Loos, the store’s owner. In March, he opened his Paddle & Trail store in downtown Beloit. (Other locations exist in Loves Park, Ill., Aurora, Ill., Rockford, Ill., and Edgerton, Wis.) Now Beloiters can explore the area not only by foot or wheel, but by paddle.
Situated just past the Grand Avenue Bridge downtown and a stone’s throw from the city’s new John Rose Canoe & Kayak Launch, the store offers more than just rentals and retail, though it does have outdoorsy gear galore, running the gamut from apparel and shoes to kayaks and bikes. Paddle & Trail also offers classes on things like bike maintenance and kayaking basics, as well as organized trips on local waterways or suggestions for waterway routes and bike trails, available on the store’s website.
And they’re always open to suggestions. Having already partnered with the college’s bike-share program to host a maintenance workshop last spring, the store’s management is happy to work with Beloit College students to create new trips and events.
“If students come to us with ideas of things they’d like to do, we can help them put something together,” says Therese Oldenburg, Paddle & Trail’s operations director. Lack of experience should not be a deterrent. “Most of the people who do our trips haven’t even been in a kayak before,” she adds.
To sweeten the deal, Paddle & Trail offers a standing 10 percent discount when students or staff members flash their college I.D. While biking and kayaking groups have already developed, Loos says the store is hoping to expand its offerings soon with kayak fishing and adventure-race training, in addition to snow-shoe treks this winter.
“We’re here for the community,” he says. “We want them to really think of us as their local bike and boat store.”
Hear more from Loos here.