When rivers merge, they become bigger and stronger. Following that truism, two leading paddlesport retailers—Michigan’s Summit Sports and Texas’s Austin Canoe and Kayak—recently did the same, announcing a nine-store merger enabling everything from expansion to future growth.

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Backed by Digital Fuel Capital, Bloomfield Hills, Mich-based specialty outdoor retailer Summit Sports has merged with Austin, Texas’s Austin Canoe and Kayak (ACK) under Summit Sports LLC, combining their forces in snow, paddle and other outdoor adventure sports. The merger includes e-commerce brands Skis.com, InlineSkates.com, Snowboards.com, WaterOutfitters.com, CampGear.com, AustinKayak.com, and RackBoys.com, as well as four Summit Sports brick and mortar stores in Michigan and five ACK stores in Texas.

“Sports and Austin Kayak are a natural fit and will build upon and grow on each other’s expertise to create a symbiotic and successful business,” says Summit Sports chairman Steve Kopitz. “It’s exciting to see these two companies become one, and we’re looking forward to expanding and innovating with ACK to continue bringing the best in specialty outdoor sports to consumers.”

ACK is based out of the central Texas area, operating its e-commerce store at www.AustinKayak.com and five physical locations in Austin, San Marcos, Spring, Houston, and San Antonio, Texas. Summit Sports owns and operates a number of retail stores and websites, including www.skis.com, www.snowboards.com, and www.inlineskates.com, with a total of four brick-and-mortar stores.

With top-end business practices, the merger will provide the two companies with the ability to focus on their individual specialty categories while expanding their online and local store business. “In just 10 years, we grew ACK from a small mom and pop shop with two employees to one of the largest specialty paddlesports retailers in the country,” says Peter Messana, now the CEO of Summit Sports. “We’re looking forward to the next chapter for ACK, and in particular what it will offer our customers, employees, vendors and partners.”

In addition to Digital Fuel Capital, Bay Capital Partners, Eagle Private Capital, MB Financial and Pine Street Capital provided financing for the transaction. Cascadia Capital LLC advised ACK on the transaction.

“We believe that outdoor sporting goods retailers should offer experiences tailored to the specific passions of the consumer,” says Digital Fuel president Carson Biederman. “We’re eager to have Peter and Steve Messana, along with ACK, become a part of Summit’s strategy to acquire other leaders in specialty sports.”

Peter and Steve Messana will be joining the Summit Sports executive team while retaining equity ownership in the combined entity. Kopitz will be handing over the reigns to Peter Messana, who will serve as Chief Executive Officer, while Steve Messana will continue on as vice president of merchandising. Kopitz will be taking over as Chairman of the Board for Summit Sports LLC.

— More PADDLING NEWS from Canoe & Kayak.