Happy New Year!

We hope that 2012 was as special of a year for you as it was for us. We can already tell 2013 is also going to be an amazing year but let’s focus on a bit on retrospect. 2012 was a big year for us with significant expansion and new beginnings. Here are a few highlights:

Rack Boys
It started off with the launch of what we refer to as our store-within-a-store, Rack Boys both online and at each of our local stores. We saw a need to provide the same level of service to customers seeking auto racks, trailers and sport travel gear.

Kayak Angler Tournament Series
In 2011, we had the opportunity to take over Austin Kayak Fishing, a local kayak fishing forum. With that, we acquired the right to continue hosting one of the state’s largest freshwater kayak fishing tournaments otherwise known as the Kayak Angler Tournament Series. It was a learning process for us but in the end, we were happy with the results and ready for 2013! In fact, we just launched a new site to support the tournament.

Houston Store Fire
Not all was good in 2012. Back in March, our Houston store fell victim to a fire with significant damage to the property and inventory. This was a headache for our Houston staff having to work between a temporary location, on-site storage unit and construction, but in the end they prevailed and our Houston store had a major re-grand opening event and is now better than ever!

New ACK Branding
Also in March, we launched a new look and feel starting with the redesign of our logo and a new tagline, “Outfit You Adventure”. The goal was to capture the essence of what ACK is all about. While paddlesports is and will always be a core part of our business, the new branding better represented our expansion as an all encompassing outdoor adventure retailer.

iPad® & Mobile Optimized Websites
We saw a significant increase (over 2,000%) in iPad use of our website between 2011 and 2012 prompting the launch of our tablet optimized website. While we already had a mobile optimized version of the site, we decided it needed a little bit of a face lift and re-launched it. The mobile site was developed with a focus on providing customers with a shopping experience consistent with the iPad® tablet version.

New ACK Website
In November of 2012, we announced the re-launch of AustinKayak.com which was re-designed and re-engineered to deliver an enhanced outdoor adventure gear shopping experience. This was a huge undertaking specifically because it was built in-house and from the ground up. Based on our customer’s feedback, the end result has proven itself a huge success .

New Store
Most notably was the launch of a new store just North of the Houston area in Spring, Texas. The location was selected after careful consideration and in-depth market research. The results clearly identified a healthy and active lifestyle community interested in the great outdoors. The store has only been opened for a month and already is a huge hit in the community!

Two More Awards
We gotta brag a little don’t we? In 2012 we were honored to have received two awards including our second “Kayak Angling Retailer of the Year Award” in the “Kayak Angler Choice Awards” and our fourth Bizrate® Circle of Excellence award — BTW, all thanks to you.  :-)

Those were some of our most notable accomplishments but the list doesn’t stop there. We experienced many others such as major warehouse expansion efforts, technological enhancements, significant increases in our product inventory, new hires and much more. Expect to see a press release about these milestones soon. In the meantime, you can read up on some of the aforementioned accomplishments here.

All this was made possible by you, our customers, vendors, partners, families, friends and of course employees and we thank you for it. Once again, we want to wish you and yours a truly wonderful new year. We hope that your new year’s resolutions involve the great outdoors and we can’t wait to be a part of it.

The ACK Family

ACK Spring Grand Opening Reminder

Come on by, we can’t wait to see you there!

If you’re synced in with any of our social pages or even an avid reader of our blog, no doubt you’ve heard our excitement about opening a new location north of Houston in Spring, TX. But just in case you haven’t been paying attention, the Grand Opening is this weekend! We’ve been preparing our store, getting prizes from our vendors and meeting the local community and now we’re ready to officially open our doors to the public. This two day event will take place Dec. 1st and 2nd from 10:00 AM to 5:00 PM and will offer discounts on a wide range of products as well as plenty of raffle prizes. We also have a surprise visitor that can earn you a bonus prize if you’re one of the first three to find him, take a picture and post it to our Spring Facebook wall. For more details, you’ll have to visit the event page (here). Hope to see you there!

Trial and Error of Solo Loading a Kayak

Amanda Berrent is one of our staff experts from the Houston store that started off as a frequent customer trying to fuel her kayak angling hobby. Her focus is on salt water fishing and she was actually featured on the cover of Texas Salt Water Fishing back in January of 2012 (see it here). During her time here, Amanda has become a very strong member of the staff but she admits that she is still learning a few things. Recently, she shared her story of loading a kayak onto her vehicle on her own for the first time.

So there I was, waiting on my boyfriend to show up to help me load a kayak onto our Jeep for a weekend of fishing. At the time, we did not have a garage to store the kayak in so we had it in our storage building, 25 minutes from our house. There was some sort of misunderstanding (probably on his part since guys don’t listen!) and he was still at home when I got to the building. He said, “don’t try doing it alone. The boat is too big for you to handle so I’ll be there in a bit.”

The boat at hand is a Hobie Revolution 13, thirteen foot, five inches and weighing around 70 pounds. I am 5’8”, weigh about 125; slim and somewhat fit, but not athletic in the least bit! The Jeep I was working with is a beast! With a six inch lift and thirty-three inch tires, it stands about two foot taller than I am. This was my first attempt at lifting and loading a kayak by myself, and I knew it was going to be a challenge but when he said “don’t do it, it’s too big”, it was a challenge I had to accept!

Before I get into details, let me tell you that there was already a boat on the roof rack, a Wilderness Systems Ride 115 that the guys loaded before I left work, so the room I had left was very limited. My first attempt was the ultimate fail. I tried lifting the boat with the side cut out handles, directly over my head and onto the jeep from the side. Not only did I almost break my back, I also came close to busting a few windows (I will need to work on bench pressing and weightlifting before I try that again)! My second idea, although it took a little time and was nowhere near graceful, got it up there! I ended up sitting the nose (bow) of the boat onto the back of the jeep, stood under the boat and got into many awkward positions trying holding it in place while shimmying to the end in order to push it up on the Jeep. It took a few tries due to the width of the two boats but I knew that strategy would be my best bet and it worked, plus gave the passerby’s a good laugh!

I had only been employed at ACK for a short time, but when I got back to the store on Monday I immediately inquired about other ways to load kayaks and found out about some load assist options that are available. Don’t hesitate to check them out!

Amanda @ACK

Jerron Reviews the 30 lb. Boga Grip

Over the next several weeks, you’ll be seeing a series of product reviews from our expert store staff. This first one comes from Jerron, ACK Assistant Store Manager for the Houston Store. Jerron is an avid kayak angler with years of experience both on the water and in the store. He’s our resident beyond the breakers expert and can be seen here showcasing his skills with the a group known as the Adventure Islanders. If you ever stop by our Houston Location and need some questions answered relating to ‘yak angling, be sure to ask for this guy!

Product: Boga Grip 30 lb Fishing Tool Model 130, Price $119.00

Description: The Boga Grip 30 lb. Fishing Tool is a high-quality fish landing, handling and weighing tool. It handles fish by encompassing the fish’s lower jawbone and works on most species of fish.

Jerron Says: I got to put the 30 pound Boga Grip to test in Baja California recently, and I must say that it was everything that I wanted and more in a lip gripping device.  Strong, reliable, and accurate are three words that come to mind when describing this solid product and I would highly recommend it to any kayak angler out there.  At only $119, it is well worth the price.

Pros:

The thing that impressed me the most about the Boga Grip is its durability, even while exposed to saltwater like it was down in Baja California.  Most other lip grippers that I have used may last only a month or two before becoming too corroded and rusted that they will not open any more, even with regular cleaning.  The plastic ones will lose their strength and break if grabbing a fish larger than they are meant for.  The Boga, even after 5 straight days in a highly corrosive environment, looked like brand new and functioned as smooth as when I first pulled them out the box.  I think I only washed them once in that span of time too.  Another aspect that I find to be very beneficial to both the fisherman and the fish is that once the device is secured to the fish’s jaw, the whole head of the unit will spin when a fish begins to thrash.  This stop the fish’s jaw from breaking and also allows me to spin the fish around to better grab hold of the lure so as to take it out sooner so that I can get the fish back into the water. Also, one thing that will scare any fisherman out there, is a flopping fish with hooks flying all over the place while the fish is trying to free itself.

Once secured in the clamps a fish cannot get away and it allows me to easily remove the sharp hooks without getting any unwanted piercings.  Now for most people out there, the 15 pound Boga will suffice, but I like to go offshore kayak fishing so I need a device that will handle larger species like king mackerel and jack crevalle.  A bonus to being able to secure them is to also be able to weigh my catch right there in the kayak.  Most of the roosterfish I caught down in Baja were in the 30-60 pound range so a lot of those fish bottomed out my Boga’s scale but never once did I feel as if the device was going to fail.  Another nice feature that most people do not know about the Boga is that it is the only hand held scale that you can send in to the IGFA and have them certify the device so that if you catch a potential state or world record, the weight that shows on the scale is automatically certified with the IGFA and they will accept the record.  You can bet that I will be sending mine in soon to let them authorize my Boga as a certified IGFA scale!

Cons:

The one down side of being built like a brick house is that the Boga will sink to the bottom fast if you drop it over board.  This problem is easily overcome by attaching a float to the lanyard, but it would be nice if Eastboga (the company who makes the product) would sell a float made specifically for this product.  Other than that I could not find anything else to really nit-pick this product about.

Jerron@ACK

Just Out of Reach…

If there is a will…we’ll find a way.

We get to do a lot of installs and repairs here at the ACK Houston Store and we have never been faced with an install that we have not been able to do. We recently had a customer bring in his Ocean Kayak Big Game for some rod holder installs and a rudder. The rudder was a breeze but then came the rod holders. Where the customer wanted them was just out of my arms reach in order to put the stainless steel nuts on the back side of the bolt. I really did not want to do a well nut install and was bound and determined to make this work. Before I could go any farther, the phone rang and I ran off to answer it. When I returned to my project I noticed our newest store employee, Vanson Nguyen, was upside down and inside the front hatch of the boat putting the stainless nuts on the boat! Now take into consideration that Van is 5 foot tall and 110 pounds. There is no way I could do it at my size, but he fit perfectly! We coordinated the attack plan for the rest of the install and got it knocked out quick. The customer was very pleased with the install. This experience left us thinking to ourselves, what other boat will Van fit into…..anybody have some requests?

Jerron @ACK Houston

Press Release: Austin Canoe and Kayak Houston Store Experiences Fire – Open for Business

Austin, Texas (March 26, 2012) – Austin Canoe and Kayak’s (ACK) Houston store located at 5822 Bissonnet in Houston, Texas recently experienced a fire resulting in extensive damage to the rear portion of the building and product inventory.

Despite the fire damage, two thirds of the building is still in operable condition and all damaged inventory has been replenished. With the hard work off all the store employees and those who volunteered to help ACK, the store never closed and continued operations. The building is getting completely renovated and ACK will remain open for business throughout the renovation process in it’s current location. The company has also rented temporary warehouse space at a nearby location for inventory storage while the damaged portion of the building is rebuilt and the remaining parts of the building are renovated.

“The fire was an eye opener for us, not so much how quickly fire can create havoc or the damage sustained but more so in the community’s support in helping us get back on our feet,” said Chris Hackerd, Vice President of Store Operations, “we are so thankful to all of our employees, customers, friends, partners and even strangers that came out to help clean up the aftermath making it possible for us to remain open.”

The fire originated within an adjacent building not associated with neither MSP Holdings, LLC or Austin Canoe and Kayak. No injuries or casualties were reported nor was the fire considered an act of arson.

About MSP Holdings, LLC

MSP Holdings, LLC operates Austin Canoe and Kayak (ACK), an award-winning paddlesports and outdoor retailer and Rack Boys a vehicle rack and sports travel outfitter dedicated to providing exceptional customer service. Both retail outfits are based out of the central Texas area, with their respective online stores at www.AustinKayak.com and www.RackBoys.com and within three physical locations in Austin, San Marcos and Houston, Texas.

If you’d like more information about this topic, or to schedule an interview with Austin Canoe and Kayak or Rack Boys, please call Roland Jimenez at 512-687-3010, or email pr@austinkayak.com.

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Good Friends, Good Fun & Good Brew

The holiday season can easily become crazy and stressful so it’s always nice to be able to take a day where you can gather with close friends for a good time and reflect upon the previous year. I recently had the opportunity to do just that with our friends from P.A.C.K. (Paddling Anglers in Canoes and Kayaks).

P.A.C.K. is a non-profit recreational organization as well as an ACA Paddle America Club member. The members organize trips throughout the year to various locations along the Texas coast from the Houston area to Port Aransas and all the way down to southern tip of the state near Brownsville.

Every year they hold an annual Christmas party and this year the gathering was at the St. Arnold Brewery in Houston, Texas. I was especially excited about being a part of this event. Members were treated to good food, music, a picture slideshow highlighting this year’s trips, tasty St. Arnolds beer and the announcement of Ron Romeis as the new P.A.C.K. president.

We at ACK would like to thank P.A.C.K. for everything they do and would also want to congratulate Ron on becoming the new president. We look forward to working with you and the rest of the P.A.C.K. organization in the enjoyment, promotion and preservation of the great sport of kayak and canoe fishing.

Cheers,
Jerron
ACK Houston