Commercial Record

Douglas Tables Competitive Kayak Bids

BY SCOTT SULLIVAN EDITOR

Douglas City Council Monday tabled voting on a 3-year Wade’s Bayou recreational services contract for kayak and stand-up paddleboard rentals between 17-year site vendor Running Rivers and St. Joseph-based Third Coast Surf Shop. It was the first competitive bidding for the site in years.

• Running Rivers owner Mike Philippe, who council remembered in past years paying between $800 and $1,000 for his yearly lease, bid $1,200 for each of the three years and a two-year option after, should the city choose to extend it.

• Third Coast, which contracts at three other west Michigan municipal sites and offered 12-percent of yearly gross operating site profits, offered a $5,000 per year minimum, more than four times as much.

Council chose to postpone voting based on new city attorney counsel concerning presenting the chosen vendor “a clean contract,” member Neal Seabert said.

Philippe of Holland has long operated a pop-up shop near the Wade’s boat launch, also selling water and sports drinks there. The business offers longer, albeit unguided, river excursions plus point-to-point shuttle pickups.

Running Rivers stores extra boards and boats just west of there during operating hours. It proposes using the park’s back (south) side lot for placing two more trailers of kayaks plus bus with trailer during non-use hours.

The business, said Philippe, offer two full-time and one part-time jobs as customer service representatives and four full-time general labor positions, all starting at minimum wage and rising to $15 depending on job performance and experience.

Its fleet includes 30 single-person kayaks and 13 two-person kayaks, one canoe, seven stand-up paddleboards, 50 kayak paddles, 4 canoe paddles, 10 paddleboard paddles, life jackets from infant to super large sizes, three storage and transportation trailers and a 14-passenger bus for bus for transporting customers to designated launch sites.

Third Coast, launched in 2005, now operates similar kayak and stand-up paddleboard rental and retrieval services for municipalities in New Buffalo, Benton Harbor and Berrien County on the Silver River.

Its all-new rental equipment at Wade’s would include 12 single-person kayaks, 18 two-person kayaks, nine paddleboards, corresponding paddles and U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jackets.

Rental customers would kayak or paddleboard for their designated time, starting and returning to the Wade’s Bayou launch site, eliminating the need for a shuttle and parking arrangements for it.

“We can also offer shuttle pickups at other sites, if that’s what Douglas wants,” Third Coast founder and president Ryan Gerard told council.

Gerard, whose business also operates a year-round brick-and-mortar surf shop in St. Joseph and emphasizes online reservations, would be Wade’s on-site supervisor. His wife Erin also works with him.

Other leadership team members include a retail general manager, bookkeeper and assistant retail manager marketing.

“We would recruit, hire, train and supervise up to eight local residents as rental site staff who would undergo a background check and work on-site to provide an excellent customer experience,” Gerard told the city.

Staff would work on a seasonal basis (estimated May through October) starting at $11 per hour plus customer tips.

Kayaks, paddleboards et. al. would be stored in an 8×40-foot self-contained module in the gravel area adjacent to and parallel with the existing tree line, the same area Running Rivers has used along the far north end of the park.

“It’s a tough call,” Mayor Jerry Donovan said. “A longtime vendor vs. a better financial offer.

“Let’s further weigh our attorney’s counsel,” the mayor said.

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