Since it began out of a basement six years ago, Winona-based startup Sanborn Canoe Co. has been celebrated for its handcrafted and hand-painted artisan canoe paddles. A regular player at the annual Northern Grade maker market in Minneapolis, Sanborn’s paddles have been featured in GQ magazine and decorate the store walls of Askov Finlayson and Filson—not to mention countless North Loop lofts. But despite the “canoe” in its name, the company hasn’t actually produced canoes—until now. The brand recently acquired heritage brand Merrimack Canoes, which was established in 1954 in Merrimack, NH.
“One of our goals was always to make canoes,” says Sanborn co-founder Zak Fellman in the Kickstarter campaign video to help fund the new Merrimack workshop, which will also be located in Winona. (The campaign was successful, raising more than $53,000 out of a $40,000 goal.) Recently, they received a call from Merrimack Canoes offering to sell the brand to Sanborn, and it was an offer they couldn’t refuse.
Fellman describes Merrimack Canoes as “a mix of vintage and modern, high performance yet still beautiful in the way classic rib and canvas canoes are made”—something that perfectly fits with the Sanborn brand. Like most canoes currently on the market, the hulls of Merrimack canoes are built with a lay-up of Kevlar, fiberglass, and carbon fiber. What makes a Merrimack canoe unique is that it’s hand-trimmed with wood gunnels, seats, decks, and thwarts and inlaid with a brass medallion on the front deck, making it both as beautiful as a classic canoe and lighter-weight than a vintage version.
While Sanborn is currently in the process of moving operations into a larger production facility (canoes are a little bigger than paddles, after all), it’s running an online sale on paddles, camp supplies, and branded clothing and accessories through June 20 at midnight. • sanborncanoe.com
Merrimack’s Souhegan model with Sanborn paddle
Merrimack’s Osprey model
A glimpse into the new Merrimack + Sanborn workshop: