A 59-year-old handcrafted canoe company will soon be putting down roots in downtown Travelers Rest.
Merrimack Canoe Company, founded in 1954, is one of the oldest handcrafted canoe companies in the country. The canoes are built using very lightweight carbon and fiberglass, and the beauty of the wood finish completes the perfect piece, said current owner Andy O’Mara. “It’s an old-style canoe using modern materials,” he said.
O’Mara purchased the company in November 2011 and had been scouting the East Coast for a new location. A Greenville friend suggested he come look around, O’Mara said, and he fell in love: “I think Greenville has a great atmosphere – very outdoorsy, very active – and thought it would be a good fit for my brand.”
O’Mara said the proximity to the Swamp Rabbit Trail and downtown Travelers Rest location, along with being close to Charlotte and Atlanta, all played a part in his decision to purchase the 4,000-square-foot building at 35 S. Main St.
The entire community has been very supportive and involved in the process for the past nine months, O’Mara said. “I think we’re making the right decision,” he said.
The company currently has one location in Crossville, Tenn., and produces about 80 canoes a year. O’Mara said that the new Travelers Rest location will be a full production location, and with the flexibility in the space, he’s looking to double that production number.
“We’re not a big company and we have a very niche product. We are confident with the new Travelers Rest building we can put out the same high-quality canoe,” O’Mara said.
Merrimack Canoe Company plans to hire three to five people to staff the new Travelers Rest location, and plans to be open sometime in late fall 2013.