Photos Andy Calvert
Change is one thing we can all count on in life, for better or worse, but there is reason to celebrate when that change offers the opportunity to make a good thing even better. WHEN V3 LAST VISITED WITH BRANDON WILLIAMS AND ASHLEY FRICKS AT THE CANOE HOUSE, it was December of 2020, a year we all remember too well and not that fondly.
They had adapted and not only survived the shutdown, but also found a way to thrive and emerge even stronger. That perseverance paid off and once the new normal arrived, many of the changes made to serve their customers carried over, including the vibe and overall customer experience The Canoe House always delivered.
Fast forward to 2022-23, after years of sharing space with another business while housing their retail and outdoor offerings in the back of 608 Broad Street, the space in the front of the building was vacated and a decision had to be made on how to best fill that void.
“To be honest, we always wanted to have the retail space up front,” says Williams. “We wanted to see Broad Street and be seen by those on Broad Street. Now people can walk or drive by and get a look at what we do and who we are.”
“We weren’t really sure what we were going to do with the space in the back, but shortly after we moved a group approached us about hosting a March Madness party and it worked so well, we just kind of rolled with it.”
And so, Six-0-Eight Events Venue was born. The space fits the aesthetic of the shop, with exposed brick walls and concrete floors, offering up to 75 people a great vibe for just about any event. From prom dinners to SEC Championship parties, they have already had a wide variety of themes. The room can be booked for 4 (half day) or 8 hours (full day), those include an hour before and after the event for set up and break down.
“We already have a ton of events on the calendar, so the response has been great,” says Williams.
With the event space added to its arsenal of offerings, The Canoe House has cemented itself as a Downtown Rome staple whose services extend far beyond the boundaries of its brick-and-mortar location. One of the latest editions to those services is kayak rentals for those looking to experience Rome’s waterways.
“One of the things I enjoy most about what we have built here is that it’s more than just a shopping experience,” says Williams. “We get to know our clients and the products we sell them are more often than not being purchased with a particular experience in mind. Whether that is fly-fishing, camping, or paddling. We are really excited to add the kayak rentals so that those who don’t own a boat of their own can get out and enjoy the water.”
This mission hit the water in March with six boats in the rental fleet, dropping off at Grizzard Park and picking up at Heritage Park, but there are plans for more exclusive and secluded trips on the horizon, so that will be something to keep an eye on for those looking to get out on the water in Rome and Floyd County.
While their adventurous clients can find all sorts of products they need, many of which are made locally, to engage in all of the outdoor activities Canoe House offers, the variety available to customers is intentional and hard to deny when perusing their selection. Prints, koozies, everyday men’s and women’s fashion, and the outdoor-friendly brands they carry line the walls and hangers throughout the store.
“We try to work with local vendors whenever we can, while still carrying tried and true brands that people know and love, but can’t find at the big box stores,” says Williams. “Ashley does a fantastic job keeping things fresh when it comes to women’s clothing and that inventory is constantly changing so there is always something new to see when our customers drop by the store.”
The Canoe House has embraced change in many ways, but they have done so while keeping their customer-centric vision very much the same. Whether you’ve booked an event, rented a kayak, or purchased a shirt or some new camping gear, they want you to leave satisfied and looking forward to your next visit.
“On a weekly basis, we will have a few local people walk through the door who have never been to the shop before,” says Williams. “We enjoy getting to know them, and I have to say I believe that’s what sets us apart. When people come in, we know about their annual camping or fishing trip. Those relationships allow us to better serve our customers and we strive to make sure they leave here feeling good about their purchase.”