Breathing new life into a 50-year-old flagship paddling brand, a group of outdoor and paddlesports and outdoor industry veterans have announced the acquisition of Lincoln Canoe & Kayak.
The ownership group is led by Marc Bourgoin, a 20-year paddlesports professional with experience at all levels of the industry: as a guide, as a business owner, and most recently as a sales representative for Northeast Outdoor Sports, which exclusive supports Johnson Outdoors.
The group also includes Ponch Membreno, a 15-year outdoor retail specialist whose experience includes design and management of retail operations for Patagonia (Freeport; New York City) and Horny Toad (Freeport); as well as Ron Bourgoin, who brings two decades of logistics and operations expertise to the team.
The new owners will take control of Lincoln’s manufacturing facility and retail showroom in Freeport, effective immediately.
“As a group, we want to resurrect the historically powerful Lincoln brand with new personality, new energy and new ideas,” said Bourgoin. “And personally, what’s driving me is a desire to get back to the core of paddling. I want to raise my family as part of the outdoor culture, not part of corporate America.”
Founded in 1959, Lincoln Canoe & Kayak’s current lineup includes eight different canoes, nine different kayaks, and more than a little bit of history. Lincoln’s current brand recognition is fueled in large part by their location, a spot on the high visibility Freeport corridor, a premier retail district that sees more than 6 million visitors each year.
The ownership group got its own start in the early 1990s, when Bourgoin and Membreno shared the guiding duties of a Chewonki Foundation “leader training trip” in Maine’s Bigelow range, and dreamed of one day co-owning their own paddle brand.
“What we share as a group is a foundation of paddlesport experiences with a direct link to education,” said Bourgoin. “To create a sustainable client base, there has to be something more meaningful than just healthy margins: it’s got to be about the experience.”
The new owners’ distinct vision for Lincoln begins with a return of brand focus to the core audience: regional paddlers seeking both quality and community.
While one primary tool for strengthening community will be an interactive, user-friendly showroom in Freeport; the other will be the incorporation into Lincoln of Compass Road Expeditions, a domestic and international paddling guide service founded by Bourgoin in 1997.
“My connection to the sport has always been through guiding and always been through teaching. I‘ve experienced first hand the power of sharing the natural world with people, and there’s no doubt that it can change lives,” said Bourgoin. “It’s all about getting on the water.”
With their 100% made-in-Maine manufacturing facility, Lincoln is certain to appeal to consumers seeking locally made product.
It’s also expected to appeal to national retailers at a time when large brands are increasingly reliant on consolidation and offshore manufacturing – and small, high-quality regional brands are rising in prominence.
“A lot of people are looking at the paddlesports industry and wondering ‘where do we go from here?’“ said Bourgoin. “The quality of the product, the community around the brand, the experience of paddling – all those things are being lost at the expense of higher profit margins. We’re going to change that.”