story and photos by Cindy Ruggieri
For all things outdoors, there’s no better place than Power and Paddle on Route 96 in Candor. Whether you’re working the land or playing on the water, chances are this store will have what you are looking for.
With years of experience and a desire to own his own business, Jim Signs, along with his wife Susan, opened Power and Paddle in 2002. “As a teen, I started doing repairs on power equipment and learned a lot about the business. I also grew up around boats at our family cottage on Cayuga Lake,” Signs explains. Starting with one building and a mix of small recreational boats, such as pedal boats and kayaks, as well as all sorts of power equipment, Power and Paddle has since grown to three buildings – a watercraft showroom, a power equipment store, and a shoe outlet.
I was there to look at a kayak. All shapes, sizes, and colors of kayaks hang from ceiling to floor along the aisles of the showroom. Walls feature safety equipment, oars, and other accessories. The inventory is impressive.
Over the years, the kayak side of the business has grown, thus the need for its own showroom. A big part of the appeal is the test pond behind the showroom. It’s a huge draw for outdoors enthusiasts from all over the state and beyond. “We have always had a test pond for folks to try out the water craft, which our customers love,” says Signs. Originally customers had to travel to the Signs’ private property to access the test pond. “We have 140 different models of watercraft, and generally have 40 or 50 kayaks and other watercraft available for clients to try out at our pond,” explains Signs.
A big part of their success with kayaks is his skill in helping people find the right kind of kayak for their abilities and needs. “There are several factors that go into personal kayak selection, such as right-to-left balance, front-to-back balance, and the ability to lift yourself out of the kayak,” says Signs. There are also the questions on how it will be used: Is it for family recreation, or for a serious whitewater kayaker? Is this a cottage kayak where many people will be using it, or for a single owner? Signs’ goal is to ask the right questions to get the right fit.
And then there are the serious fishing enthusiasts. “Using kayaks for fishing has grown tremendously over the years,” Signs says. “They can get you to spots that were previously not accessible by boat.” Add in the technology now available, and it can be one high-tech kayak. “We can add waterproof Bluetooth speakers to connect to your phone, GPS trackers to precisely pinpoint the spot of that great catch, and fish finders to aid in the search.”
Lessons are offered on Tuesday evenings in the summer, alternating between kayak and stand-up training. It’s part of the all-around service that is a foundation for Power and Paddle.
I decided to wander through the other two buildings to see what they had to offer. The shoe store is all Susan’s. When looking to expand the business and make use of existing space on their property, it was a natural fit to take advantage of her background as a kinesiologist, her knowledge in fitting orthotics, and knowing all about feet to open a shoe store devoted to helping customers find foot comfort. There are a whole lot of work boots, mud boots, hiking boots, water shoes, and sandals, but the ones that caught my eye were the walking shoes. It wasn’t long before I was trying on a pair – and, of course, left with shoes in hand.
I stopped in the power tool building, and even for someone like me who knows very little about them, I was impressed: mowers and trimmers, chain saws and safety gear, logging supplies and a whole lot of parts. There’s a lot to look at – even the ceiling is covered with saws and signs. I peeked in the side bay where they were servicing a mower, and listened to an employee explain all the workings of a chain saw.
Jim Signs explains that the goal of Power and Paddle is “to serve people really well in all aspects of the business.” This also means training and mentoring his employees. “I like sending my younger employees to the training sessions offered by the manufacturers. They are learning not only the skills for the business, but also the life skills for handling all of our inventory with safety as a top priority, in and out of the workplace.”
The business model is straightforward: Ask the customer the right questions. Have enough inventory to test it out. Provide good service. Honor your commitments. Train and mentor younger employees. Be nice.
It’s a simple formula for success, and one they do very well at Power and Paddle.