Bell Canoe Works

Well, now that the word is out on Bell’s fate…what was this all about?

Posted by: Gavin on Jan-22-11 7:43 PM (EST)

I can assure you that we are not going out of business. Rumors are rumors and I cannot say anything to stop them. I can assure you that sales and service for Bell is up and running and we are still busy making the best canoes in thew world.


standard operating procedure
No company admits they are in trouble until they have to lock the door and turn the lights out.

When I bought a year-long Rewards Plus membership at my local Borders bookstore earlier this year they didn’t mention that Borders was about to go into Chapter 11 bankruptcy and close that store either.

when American Airlines
let us know our flight would be delayed, we didn’t know they were having a wildcat strike.

Cause they are still building canoes
On an extremely limited basis. Bell is not “Out of Business,” Yes, Bell is for sale and production of unsold boats has stopped, but they are not closed.

Bell is finishing up boat orders, and using up materials they have in inventory and then will cease production. Either someone buys them and they will pick back up or they’ll use up their existing materials and will cease to build boats. From my sources, Johnson/ Old Town was interested in buying them but have withdrawn their offer. Kinda hard to stay in business when you’re not building your product line. It’s a shame they were not up front with their customers…we’re owed that much.

How could a company that makes the best canoes be going out of business? The story makes no sense.

You want the best?
I don’t know if Bell makes the best canoes, but let’s say they do. How many people really want the best? Seems to me the Old Town Discovery 174 probably outsold any Bell model by at least 10 to one, and maybe much more than that. I don’t have any numbers, but I suspect there are probably more Colemans in the world than Wenonahs. Unfortunately, most people don’t want the best of most things, but the cheapest (and consequently more of it).

Out of curiosity, did you think Bell was the best due to their lay-ups, their designs, or the general workmanship? I remember being amazed the first time I saw a black gold canoe with walnut trim and the scuppered decks.


– Last Updated: Jun-02-11 12:27 AM EST –

I've been thinking somewhat along the same lines, but have a bit of a different twist on the question

What makes one high end canoe survive over the other? Consider that both Bell and Wenonah are/were local to MN and operate in pretty much the same business climate. Both build a quality line of canoes. How is it that Wenonah appears to be flourishing, or at least doing ok, and Bell has been somewhat on the rocks since before they moved to La Crosse. My preference has always been to Bell, yet I see way more Wenonah boats on car tops and in the wild.

I think mr_canoehead pretty much sums up the idea of how many people really want the best - not many. But of those that do...

Bell Canoe and ORC from what I see…
Hello All,

I have been the sales rep for Bell Canoe Works in the since ORC bought them. On 1-22-11 when my original post was made Bell Canoe was in full swing and right now they are publically up for sale, so this is the reason I said what I said. It was certainly not standard operating procedure of a company going out of business. I am an independent sales rep and I do not operate like that.

I will tell you that it has nothing to do with sales numbers of Bell Canoes or the money being made off of the sales. In 2010, Bell Canoe had the best year in both quality control and in sales posting almost 30% better sales than any year that Bell has existed under any ownership.

The executives at ORC made a decision that Bell Canoe is not labor intensive enough to fit their model of employing mentally and physically disabled people to work on their company brands.

It is a bit lame that they are not fully operating with business as usual, but that is the only thing wrong with the situation and I have made my voice an opinion known to the higher ups at ORC about this point to no avail.

Bell Canoe still has several boats in stock and ready to go out and they are beautiful. Please email me directly if you have anymore questions about the situation going on right now and I am sorry that this is happening to this beloved company right now, but it is what it is at this point.

I do hope that someone that cares about Bell Canoe buys the company and we can move forward with the manufacturing of the best canoes in the world.


That’s my hope too…I want a company to buy Bell and continue making their beautiful canoes just the way they are now. It’ll be a real shame to see them disappear. For now, I’ll be extra glad to have my Northwind. Personally, I’d like to see Wenonah buy the company and product line and keep it the way it is. Doubtful that will happen but we can wish.

prior to purchase?
Wouldn’t it have been knowable in advance whether or not canoe production was conducive for employment of mentally and physically disabled people? Did something change between the time of purchase and the time of the decision to sell?

Wish I was a lawyer
There is a hell of a lawsuit here.

ORC purchases Bell with the intent of employing disabled workers.

Subsequently decides that this intent is not achievable and instead tries to unload Bell.

No buyers appear.

Now the able bodied employees will be out of work.

Show me the $$$$$

– Last Updated: Jun-02-11 5:30 PM EST –

I'd be very interested to know "exactly" where the money to purchase Bell Canoes came from, and were any "tax dollars" involved?


Very true regarding tax dollars. Hmmmm, maybe ORC indeed just wants to help the handicap workers and could care less about govt assistance when appearing to operate in that manner? LOL

No Gov’t Money
They bought Bell INCASE their government contracts dried up. ORC needs production that employs their staff and has a steady demand. Red Feather snow shoes is a great example. Bell, wasn’t the perfect fit.