Brian “BJ” and Joli Johnson, local kayak outfitters and owners of Sea Me Paddle Kayaking Tours in Lakeside, have expanded their kayak rental and guide business to offer bike and vacation rentals in Somers.
Sea Me Paddle opened in 2013 after the couple started thinking about opening their own kayak business. A few short months after the idea began to form, they found a “For Rent” sign in an office in Lakeside and opened their new business.
The pair previously had worked together as guides in Glacier National Park when they decided to go into business together — BJ taking on more of the logistical tasks, and Joli putting to use her experience as a graphic and web designer.
Joli is a Montana native from Bozeman, and BJ moved from Michigan 11 years ago after retiring from a career as a deputy sheriff and a firefighter. After retiring, BJ embarked on several “bucket-list” jobs, such as working on a dude ranch and fighting fires in California, before he started guiding in the park. Apart from the two businesses he and Joli now run, BJ also owns his own construction business working as a full-service contractor and Joli does graphic and web design.
In May 2013 they led their first guided trips; they’re now in their fifth season. But as they prepare for summer, the Johnsons’ new venture has solidified. Spoke and Paddle — a rental shop for both bikes and kayaking supplies, along with a vacation rental attached, are now open for business.
“We needed our own brick and mortar,” Joli said, noting that at their existing business they have always leased — an unknown variable in planning for the long term. “We had been looking for years, but property down here is scarce.”
The couple had been eying the building that sits at the end of Somers Road for several years. It previously was a photography studio, and they didn’t expect it to be opening up any time soon. But when it came available in April, the property had been on the market for less than two days when the Johnsons put in their bid.
The location was the main selling point — with Flathead Lake a stone’s throw away and access to miles of bike trails — they couldn’t ask for better.
“We’re all about everything that’s human-powered,” BJ said. Adding bikes to their kayak operation was the perfect match.
Spoke and Paddle will offer bike and kayak rentals in the summer, and the Johnsons also are considering renting winter bikes and snowshoes in the winter season. They are working to add exercise classes and art classes as well.
The Johnsons also wanted to be able to offer lodging and adventure packages — enter the vacation rental.
Attached to the shop is a three-bedroom, fully furnished house, which the Johnsons have listed on Airbnb, VRBO and Tripadvisor as a short-term rental option.
The house can comfortably sleep eight people, BJ said, with a queen suite downstairs, a second queen suite on the upper floor and a room with a twin trundle on the main floor.
The house offers a view of Somers Bay and the trail to Kila runs right by the property. With all of Somers right around the corner, downtown is nearby as well.
In the vacation rental and the shop, the pair also plan to feature local art to sell.
Spoke and Paddle officially opened on June 10, renting out bikes, kayaks, paddleboards and other supplies. BJ and Joli also offer guided trips, and will meet paddlers and peddlers on the lake and on the trail. It operates seven days a week from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m and is located at 10 Somers Road in Somers. For more information visit spokeandpaddle.com.
Reporter Alyssa Gray may be reached at 758-4433 or firstname.lastname@example.org.