Two specialty outdoor retail shops are now one.

Austin Canoe & Kayak (ACK) in Texas and Summit Sports in Michigan announced a merger deal, Jan. 26, that brings together their retail expertise in snow, paddle, and other outdoor adventure sports.

The combined business, backed by Digital Fuel Capital, consists of five stores in Texas, four in Michigan, and numerous e-commerce sites, including,,,,,, and

And the business may further expand as investors in the deal said they are seeking more acquisitions in the space.

Summit Sports Store

Summit Sports Store

Peter and Steve Messana, co-owners of Austin Canoe & Kayak will retain equity ownership in the combined entity under the Summit Sports LLC name. Peter Messana will serve as CEO of the business, while Steve Messana will be vice president of merchandising. Summit Sports Founder and CEO Steve Kopitz will shift to become chairman board.

“Summit 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,” Kopitz said. “It is exciting to see these two companies become one, and Summit Sports is looking forward to expanding and innovating with ACK to continue bringing the best in specialty outdoor sports to consumers.”

“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,” Peter Messana said. “We are looking forward to the next chapter for ACK, and in particular what it will offer our customers, employees, vendors and partners.”

“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.” -Peter Messana

As specialty outdoor retailers look to compete against larger chains, e-commerce and direct-to-consumer business models — or in some cases, transition with succession planning — an increasing number of independent shops are teaming up with like-minded stores to merge and grow, while remaining true to their specialty core.

Previous recent examples include Backwoods acquiring specialty outdoor shops Neptune Mountaineering in Boulder, CO, and Dynamic Earth in Springfield, MO in 2013 and 2014, respectively. And on Oct. 30, 2015, Backwoods opened a new location in Bentonville, Ark. It now covers five states with 11 locations.

In 2015, Alpine Shop, a St. Louis-based outdoor retailer, purchased The Pathfinder, a specialty outdoor store in Manhattan, KS, increasing its store count to five in three states — Missouri, Kansas and Illinois.

The Austin Canoe & Kayak and Summit Sports deal was backed by investment firm, Digital Fuel Capital LLC. 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,” said Carson Biederman, president of Digital Fuel Capital. “We are eager to have Peter and Steve Messana, along with ACK, become a part of Summit’s strategy to acquire other leaders in specialty sports.”

– Photos courtesy Austin Canoe & Kayak and Summit Sports