Walden Kayaks: A Legacy in Jeopardy

If there’s one thing the paddlesports industry can’t afford to lose, it’s the ingenuity and passion that small companies like Walden Kayaks bring to the table. However, recent developments have cast a shadow of uncertainty over the future of this beloved kayak manufacturer.

On November 24, Walden Kayaks received a stark notice from Banknorth, its former financier. The bank decided to cease financing the company and called in its note, leaving Walden Kayaks in a precarious position. By 5 p.m. that day, the doors of the Ayer, Massachusetts-based company were locked, and around 16 employees found themselves abruptly out of work. Not only did this abrupt turn of events leave the dedicated employees stranded, but it also sent shockwaves through the paddlesports industry, forcing retailers to scramble to inform their customers that the ordered boats would not be arriving as planned.

The story of Walden Kayaks is one of vision and dedication. A little over a year ago, Jeffrey DeSantis and Bill Hearn took ownership of the company, purchasing it from Hardigg Industries. However, while Walden Kayaks changed hands, Hardigg retained ownership of the building that housed the company, as well as the two ovens crucial to manufacturing their renowned recycled plastic boats. The fate of these assets remains uncertain at this point.

In the face of adversity, hope still flickers for Walden Kayaks. Jennifer Hearn, the company’s public relations director, shared that DeSantis, Walden’s president, remains optimistic that an investor within the paddlesports industry will step forward to keep the legacy of Walden Kayaks alive. However, time is of the essence. SNEWS® reached out to a bank representative who confirmed that advertisements will soon be placed to sell off Walden’s remaining assets.

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Speaking of assets, insiders revealed that the inventory held by Walden is substantial. It includes over 8,000 Waldies shoes, reminiscent of the popular Crocs footwear, along with approximately 1,000 finished boats and 800 boats in various stages of production. The company also imports and distributes several thousand TNP paddles from Czechoslovakia, alongside an undisclosed quantity of PFDs, which are co-branded with Extrasport. Furthermore, there are believed to be around 12 to 14 molds that enable the production of Walden’s 10 distinct boat models.

In an email to SNEWS®, Jennifer Hearn expressed her personal attachment to Walden Kayaks, remarking on the tight-knit nature of the paddlesports industry and the joy she experienced in nurturing relationships within it. Bill Hearn added his own sentiment, acknowledging the commendable work of Walden Kayaks’ employees. Their dedication elevated the quality of the kayaks over the past 13 months and brought about a positive change in the company’s culture.

With the fate of Walden Kayaks hanging in the balance, the paddlesports community contemplates the potential loss. Numerous prospective buyers have shown lukewarm interest in acquiring Walden’s assets, leaving doubts about whether the cherished brand will survive. It’s a tragic turn of events, considering the remarkable transformation that took place within the company over the past year. At Summer Market, keen observers noted the substantial improvements in the quality of Walden boats – lighter, stiffer, and undoubtedly better. Competitors couldn’t help but take notice, leading to a surge in retailer orders. Everything seemed primed for the company’s most successful year yet.

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While the precise cause of this sudden reversal remains obscured, insiders have disclosed that the bank’s unwillingness to provide a loan on receivables left DeSantis and Hearn desperately searching for an external investor. Unfortunately, a promising deal fell through at the last minute, leaving Walden dependent on a bank that only loaned money against tangible assets, not paper. It’s challenging to operate a company when the bank denies crucial funding for raw materials necessary to fulfill orders.

The potential loss of Walden Kayaks would be a significant blow to the industry. Its absence would leave a void in the hearts of paddling enthusiasts and a void in the market for innovative and high-quality kayaks. We can only hope that the flickering candle of Walden’s existence finds a way to burn bright once more. Perhaps a passionate investor will step forward and rekindle the flame, preserving the legacy of Walden Kayaks for generations of paddlers to come.

Walden Kayaks
Walden Kayaks: A testament to innovation and craftsmanship.

For more information about Walden Kayaks, visit UpStreamPaddle.