Tag Archives: Kim Hawkins

DownUnder Paddles Away

Downunder — the cool kayak and paddleboard rental shop that was one of the first businesses to bring new life to revitalized Saugatuck Center, 8 years ago — is closing soon. An email sent yesterday to customers from owner Kim Hawkins said:

After 15 successful years in the paddlesport industry, Downunder will close its doors following Labor Day weekend.

It’s been a long, satisfying and joyful run, and I am heartbroken it’s coming to an end.

Downunder is located in the building on the left.

Downunder has touched so many lives. We’ve made the water accessible to people of all ages and demographics, empowered, energized and provided exciting experiences to all. My personal favorite has been the underserved and at-risk in our community, the disabled, homeless, those with substance abuse issues. Time and again clients have said to me, “Downunder saved my life.” That’s the power of water, and being treated like family.

Many of you have known me and this business since it started in 2005, formerly known as Below Deck, an adorable cabana-like business that Barbara Conroy inspired, located under the Rowayton Market.

Sam Gault of Hamilton Development (and Gault Energy) allowed me the opportunity to open a second location on the Saugatuck River in 2011. And then the town of Darien invited me to operate a satellite operation at Weed Beach from 2017.

Downunder had a great location, on the Saugatuck River.

The last few years have been a struggle, with the economic climate, tidal restrictions, and most recently, pollution on the Saugatuck River. So I have decided: it’s time.

I want to thank you all – my whanau (family), for your support and encouragement over the years. A business such as this is only as good as it’s people, so my thanks too, to everyone that has worked for me. As a former employee, Danny Giannatasio, said, “Downunder is the first job I’ve had, where I’ve actually wanted to get up and go to work,” and so it was.

There will be a storewide sale of course — “everything must go,” as they say. I hope you will stop by and bid farewell to this iconic institution.

Ngā mihi nui me te aroha nui, ka kite anō — lots of thanks, lots of love, see you again.

A serene Downunder scene.

(Hat tip: Seth Schachter)