Store dedicated to water paddle sports opens in Benton Harbor

A new store in Benton Harbor is all about those who want to get out on the water in a kayak, stand-up paddleboards, or canoe. Third Coast Paddling recently opened at 241 E. Main Street in the Benton Harbor Arts District.

Third Coast Paddling is the third retail location in the Third Coast Surf Shop family of stores. Other locations are at 212 State Street in St. Joseph and at 110 N. Whittaker Street in New Buffalo. 

The group of three stores is building on a nationwide trend that has seen a rise in the use of kayaks, paddleboard, rafts and canoes in the past five years. In 2014, 21.7 million Americans -- 7.4 percent of the population -- enjoyed paddling. This represents an increase of more than 3 million participants since the study for the Special Report on Paddlesports began in 2010. 

Kayaking is the most popular form of paddling, increasing from 3 percent of Americans participating in 2010 to 4.4 percent in 2014. Overall, kayaking is most popular among young adults, ages 18 to 24 and a majority of participants in this age group -- 62 percent -- are female.

Third Coast Paddling recently celebrated its grand opening with festivities including a cook-out for customers and demonstrations of kayaks and paddleboards. It has four employees.

The new Benton Harbor store previously was home to Yakz, which was purchased by Third Coast Paddling earlier this year. Vern Jorgensen, the owner of Yakz, had thoroughly remodeled the space when he first opened the business. 

Third Coast bought the building and the inventory that has since been sold at reduced prices. "We have filled the space with new inventory this spring -- it is exciting to get deliveries of 50 kayaks to the store at a time," says Erin Gerard, Marketing Coordinator for Third Coast Surf Shop and Third Coast Paddling.

Third Coast Paddling  also is a one-stop shop for anyone interested in learning more about kayak and stand-up paddleboard rentals, which are available for groups of up to 70 people at the following rental sites: 

• In Benton Harbor: at the Paw Paw River boat launch, 601 Graham Avenue, and at Jean Klock Park Beach. 

• In New Buffalo: at the Galien River boat launch, 17440 Red Arrow Highway, and at New Buffalo City Beach.

What's for sale varies from shop to shop. The St. Joseph surf shop is the Third Coast flagship location since as it is open all year. The summer is  busy with the large number of visitors in town, however, the store also has a solid local base to support it in the fall, winter, and spring. It is also a destination for surfers throughout the Midwest, as it has a huge selection of surfboards and related gear that typically can't be found  without going to the West or East Coasts. 

Third Coast opened its first store opened in New Buffalo in 2005, a surf shop along the town's main thoroughfare. Like St. Joseph, the store caters to local customers, but the retail scene in New Buffalo is significantly more seasonal with more second-homeowners, so the store closes for several months in the winter. 

Benton Harbor's Third Coast Paddling retail store is open 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays, and noon to 5 p.m. Sundays, For more information about the Third Coast Paddling retail store or kayak or paddleboard rentals, call 269-468-9399, visit their website, or follow Third Coast Paddling on Facebook and Instagram.

Source: Third Coast Paddling
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