By Erika Watson
LEECHBURG, Pa. – A local businessman brings adventure and fun to the community with his canoe and kayak business in Leechburg.
Neill Andritz opened the River’s Edge Canoe and Kayak for business in September 2006, where he offers canoes and kayaks for sale or rent, landscaping materials, and a bait shop, as well as shuttling services. At their business, Andritz and his wife, Evelyn, offer customized trips along the Kiskiminetas River, ranging anywhere from two to 10 hours long. One only needs to call and make a reservation, and he or Evelyn will organize whatever length of trip is desired.
With his business, Andritz is making canoeing and kayaking available to adventurers near and far. This is an experience that he would recommend to everyone, young or old.
“The kids love it,” said Andritz, “and we’ve had elderly people as high as 80-years-old who have never been in a canoe before but just wanted to do it. Their whole lives they’ve wanted to do it, and once you get them in the boat, they have a great time.”
Adventurers everywhere have been taking advantage of Andritz’s business and the unique experiences it offers.
“We get a lot of repeat customers, and it’s a different experience every time,” said Andritz. “You see different wildlife every time. A lot of what we’re seeing is bald eagles, blue herons, and osprey. The fishing is phenomenal. It’s just a lot of fun.”
Wildlife is not the only attraction available when journeying along the Kiskiminetas River. Along the river, one can see remnants of the Mainline Canal, which once ran the length of the Kiskiminetas River and was used from 1834-1857. Tourists can also see: dams, locks, and other things built in the 1800s when the waterways were used for commerce.
According to an Oct. 2 article in the Valley News Dispatch, the River’s Edge Canoe and Kayak saw a 50 percent increase in watercraft rentals since last year. Andritz attributes this rise in demand to the marketing that he and his wife have done this year.
“We have come out with a new color brochure,” he said. “We have improved the website, and the Armstrong County Tourist Bureau markets us very well because they direct traffic to the website-that helps. Word of mouth is getting out now. Plus, we provide great service.”
The River’s Edge Canoe and Kayak has doubled their fleet in order to keep up with this increase in business. Andritz is searching for more ways to draw customers to the River’s Edge Canoe and Kayak.
“We are actually looking to partner with the drive-in to do some overnight camping,” Andritz said. “People could camp at the drive-in then continue on their way the next day, or just end up at the drive-in.”
Prior to opening the River’s Edge Canoe and Kayak, Andritz worked as a manager for PPG Industries for 15 years. He opened his business after he was downsized, deciding that if he could manage a business for PPG, he could manage a business for himself.
“This place was for sale,” said Andritz. “It was a garden center for 11 years, and I decided because of its location and my passion for the river to turn it into a canoe and kayak and a bait shop. And it’s worked out very well for us.”
Andritz is a member of the Kiskiminetas Watershed Association and is president of the Roaring Run Watershed Association. He is on the promotional team for F.L.A.G., the Freeport, Leechburg and Apollo Group, which is an effort to improve these areas economically and preserve the three river-town communities.
Andritz grew up in Avonmore, right on the Kiskiminetas River, and has been canoeing and kayaking all his life. He offers the following advice to all canoers and kayakers.
“Be safe; wear your life vest. And always treat the water with respect.”