Pack & Paddle, a beloved outdoor gear haven in Lafayette, is passing the torch to a new generation after proudly serving the community for half a century.

Jan Risher at The Advocate reported that Sophe Probst and Joe Miceli, longtime employees deeply ingrained in the essence of the store, have taken ownership, affirming their commitment to preserve the store's rich heritage while nurturing its connection to the local outdoor community.

Originally established by Joan and Dick Williams in 1974 near the Vermilion River, the store was envisioned as a spot for renting canoes, an idea that evolved into a revered outdoor gear paradise. John and Becky Williams took over the business in 1999, transforming it into a family affair that defined their lives for over two decades. The Williams' children grew up within the store's walls, contributing to its daily operations and sharing the passion for outdoor pursuits.

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"I'm 62, and the best ten years I've got left are the next 10," John Williams told The Advocate, reflecting on the emotional decision to pass on the reins. The transition, although poignant, marks a new chapter filled with anticipation for adventures like cycling, fly fishing, and spending cherished moments with grandchildren.

The change in ownership signifies a fusion of tradition and innovation. Probst and Miceli, with their deep ties to the store, aim to uphold the warm and welcoming ambiance that has defined Pack & Paddle for generations. Their vision includes reviving events and trips to strengthen the local outdoor community, echoing the sentiment fostered by the Williams family.

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"While we'll infuse our touch, the essence of community that John and Becky cultivated will remain intact," said Miceli, reflecting on his journey from a customer exploring the store's aisles to becoming a part of its legacy.

As the Williams prepare to step back, their support and guidance for the new owners remain unwavering. Their dedication to Pack & Paddle's enduring spirit, coupled with Probst and Miceli's enthusiasm, signal a promising future for Lafayette's treasured outdoor retail institution.

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Gallery Credit: Sydney DuCharme

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