Independent Retailer Spotlight: Alpine Shop near St. Louis

5-minute read

Alpine Shop is an award-winning outdoor retailer headquartered in the St. Louis, Missouri metro that serves outdoor enthusiasts of all kinds and experience levels. Paddlesports is one of their specialties.

Alpine Shop building with van and kayak trailer parked in front

Alpine Shop has been supporting outdoor enthusiasts—including paddlers—in America’s heartland for five decades

“We started in 1973 as a small climbing gear shop in the upstairs room of a winemaking store,” said Jarrid Snyder, the shop’s Programs Director. “Alpine Shop recently celebrated its 50th Anniversary as an outdoor retailer that provides gear, clothing, events and clinics for almost every type of outdoor enthusiast: backpackers, hikers, campers, cyclists, snowboarders, skiers and paddlers at four locations in Missouri and Kansas.”

We asked Jarrid to tell us more about Alpine Shop’s paddling department and how they’re helping support and grow paddlesports in their area. Here’s our interview with Jarrid…

BENDING BRANCHES: What’s the general experience level of your paddling clientele?

JARRID: As one of the leading independent outdoor retailers in the Midwest, we have seen all kinds come into our store. The same can be said of our paddle clientele.

We have many first-timers looking for their first recreational boat. To make sure they’re safe and comfortable, we offer classes and trips to give them a safe introduction to the sport.

a group of men in front of Alpine Shop van with ACA sign

An ACA class sponsored by Alpine Shop

We also host workshops and training opportunities for some of our customers looking to compete in an ultra-endurance race, like the MR340 that takes place across our home state of Missouri each year on the Missouri River. (Alpine Shop is a proud sponsor of the event.)

We also have our own paddle race in the St. Louis area called the Meramec Marathon. [NOTE: The Meramec Marathon was Terrain Magazine’s Reader’s Choice Winner for Best Paddling Event in 2023—check it out! Oh, and the shop also received their Favorite Outdoor Store award in 2018, 2019, 2021, 2022 and 2023!]

BRANCHES: What are the most popular types of paddling in your area?

JARRID: Canoes have an extraordinary history in Missouri and in St. Louis, specifically. Even on many of the Ozark streams that are so popular for float trips during the summer, you’ll still see plenty of canoes and rafts all across the rivers.

But kayaking has definitely taken hold in the area over the past couple of decades. I think people really enjoy the serenity of going out solo. We do still see many canoes at the races and I think they’ll make a bounce back in popularity at some point.

 view from a kayak to a pack of kayakers on the Missouri River near Kansas City, MO

View from Jarrid’s kayak as he guides an Alpine Shop kayak trip into Kansas City, MO on the Missouri River

Fishing kayaks have consistently been one of the fastest-growing markets for us over the last 10 years as more and more people have discovered how suited they are to many of our smaller rivers and creeks.

As for whitewater, we don’t have a very long season for it at the Saint Francis River, and some people like to go play on the Mississippi at the Chain of Rocks. The running joke among some members of the Missouri Whitewater Association is that they’re a driving club that goes kayaking sometimes. I think Saint Louis is due for a whitewater park like OKC [Oklahoma City]!

BRANCHES: Besides your local Mississippi and Missouri Rivers, what else offers great paddling in your area?

JARRID: According to the Missouri Department of Conservation, Missouri has more than 110,000 miles of running water. This ranges from everything from streams to the Great Rivers, so we’re extremely lucky to have so many options close to home.

The Ozark National Scenic Riverway is a favorite and it was the first national park to protect a river system. This offers some of the most beautiful paddling with spring-fed, cold, and clear water, even in the summer. It’s worth the trip!

Bending Branches Black Pearl canoe paddle next to a Wenonah canoe on the riverbank, Meramec River

Jarrid’s Black Pearl paddle and canoe during a winter paddle trip on the Meramec River

BRANCHES: Tell us about your “Generations Transformed by Discovery Outdoors” program.

JARRID: Beyond our more traditional kayak and paddling programs that have been in place for nearly 40 years, we’ve also worked with local middle schools to take every sixth grader out to paddle a canoe or kayak as a part of their camp program.

For many of these kids, it’s their first opportunity to give paddling a try. Afterward, we get dozens of handmade thank you cards from the kids. It’s really special.

BRANCHES: What's the ratio of your in-store customers vs online.

JARRID: We sell much more volume in-store, but our online presence has certainly grown. We definitely see more folks coming in to talk to an expert about what works specifically for them, rather than reading endless reviews from strangers.

There’s a lot to be said about shaking someone’s hand and hearing their experience in helping you find what’s best.

man teaching kayak paddling technique to others in the river

Jarrid instructs beginners in paddle technique

BRANCHES: What’s your personal history with Alpine Shop and your paddling niche?

JARRID: I’ve been at Alpine Shop for a little over four years now. I have always called myself a paddler while working summer camps and from my experience in the Boundary Waters and Ozark Rivers, but since coming on board at the Shop, I’ve definitely expanded my horizons.

I’ve raced the MR340 three times, become an ACA Level 2 Instructor, and led dozens of trips, including on the Missouri and Mississippi. It’s awesome to get so many people out on the water and see them get hooked.

Jarrid Snyder stands next to his kayak on the riverbank

Jarrid Snyder, Programs Director at Alpine Shop, on the Meramec River

I make sure to hand off my Aqua Bound Whiskey and Bending Branches Black Pearl to as many people as possible and that usually helps do the trick!

A big thanks to Jarrid Snyder for his time with us! There are several ways you can connect with them including the Alpine Shop website, Facebook page, Instagram and YouTube.

All photos courtesy of Jarrid Snyder and Alpine Shop.

Do you have paddle questions our friendly Customer Service Team can help you with today? Contact them: 715-755-3405 • [email protected]

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