A Bozeman outdoor retailer with more than four decades in the water-sports business has opened Northern Lights Rivers, Lakes & Oceans in the former Replay Sports building on U.S. 2 East.
Mike Garcia, who owns similar businesses in Bozeman and Pucón, Chile, said his goal for the new store in Evergreen is to offer the most complete selection of human-powered watercraft and accessories in Northwest Montana. Because he knows the water-sports industry “from top to bottom,” Garcia has an innate ability to understand his clientele.
“We match the customer’s needs to their goals, to a boat that makes the most sense for them.”
The inventory runs the gamut, from inflatable, recreational, fishing and touring kayaks, plus a variety of rafts, canoes and accessories.
Northern Lights Rivers, Lakes & Oceans can customize any watercraft. The business also rents watercraft and does repairs and maintenance..
“The industry has gone through so much technology just in 20 years,” Garcia said. “There’s been a real metamorphosis of equipment. Now there are eight-pound pack rafts — you can carry your boat on your back to the most remote location.”
The same changes go for the gear and apparel that has changed rapidly to keep up with the burgeoning water-sports industry.
“Our goal is to be the best stocked [water-sports] business,” he said. “We have strong relationships with vendors.”
Tapping into Northwest Montana was the perfect next step for his business, he said.
“There are all these fabulous rivers and lots of good water up into Canada,” he said. “You can’t do better than running these wild Montana and Idaho rivers.”
Garcia, 63, started Northern Lights Trading Co. in 1979 in Bozeman with that same goal of providing the best gear available to outdoor enthusiasts. A maverick in the business, Garcia operated the first rafting company on the Gallatin River.
He eventually expanded his Bozeman business ventures, opening a full-service outdoors store. That business closed two years ago to allow Garcia to focus exclusively on water sports, and to give him time to get on the water himself.
In 2009 he opened a water-sports store, Rivers Lakes & Oceans, in Pucón, Chile, which is managed by his oldest son, Ian.
“I’d been going down to Central and South America for years,” Garcia said. “We pioneered some of those rivers.”
All three of Garcia’s sons gravitated to water sports, following in his wake. Evan Garcia is a renowned professional kayaker and Nathan is an expedition peddler.
“It’s a family affair,” Garcia said.
“I’ve been a kayaker all my life,” he added.
His roots have something to do with that. He grew up in the water-rich state of Minnesota, and his parents had a cabin in Wisconsin, where lakes also are plentiful.
Store hours at Northern Lights Rivers, Lakes & Oceans, located at 2593 U.S. 2 E. are Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday. For more information call 406-314-6200.
Features editor Lynnette Hintze may be reached at 758-4421 or firstname.lastname@example.org.