tampabay.com

Change in pace leads women to outpost

The new owners of the Nobleton Canoe Outpost hope to revitalize the business and get more people interested in recreation on the river.

By BRITTANEY KIEFER
Published September 18, 2005


NOBLETON - Corinne Berry and Marsha Warner thought they'd found just what they were looking for when they saw the ad in the newspaper.

For sale: the Nobleton Canoe Outpost.

"I'll always remember the day I saw the ad - it was Feb. 5, 2005," Berry said. "We were looking for a change in careers, and a change in pace."

Berry, a medical sales representative, and Warner, a teacher, were neighbors on Lake Eckles in Tampa and have been friends for nine years. Both have years of boating experience and love the water, so they decided to visit the canoe outpost.

Located on the Withlacoochee River about 12 miles northeast of Brooksville, the Nobleton Canoe Outpost immediately enchanted Berry and Warner.

"We saw its potential right away," Berry said.

On June 10, Berry, 43, and Warner, 54, bought the business and moved into their new home adjacent to the outpost. They say they have big plans to revitalize the 15-year-old outpost.

Nobleton Canoe Outpost was opened by Bob Meers in 1990. For the past 10 years Meers, 78, has run the business with his son, Charlie. Last winter, they decided to sell.

"I really enjoyed working there, and everything worked good till I got up in years," Meers said. "When I wasn't able to help customers the way they needed to be helped, I knew it was time to sell."

Since moving in, Berry and Warner have been busy cleaning and renovating the outpost. They've replaced old canoes and have been fixing the trailers used to transport the canoes downriver.

"We want our customers to be happy, so we're taking the time to fix everything," Warner said.

People who come to the outpost can rent a canoe, kayak, pontoon boat, paddle boat or fishing boat. Berry, Warner or one of the outpost employees drives customers to one of the campgrounds in the Withlacoochee State Forest. Customers then paddle up the river back to the outpost. Depending on which campground customers choose, trips can range from 5 to 16 miles. Paddlers also have the option of beginning their trip at the outpost.

The outpost currently has 120 canoes, 15 kayaks, two pontoon boats, two paddle boats and a fishing boat. Berry and Warner want to add to their inventory by purchasing more kayaks.

Berry and Warner also plan to reopen the concession stand that has been closed for three years. Within two months, they will open a small dining area, which will have inside and outside seating. The menu will include appetizers and maybe sandwiches.

In addition, Berry and Warner will start selling live bait to customers.

The outpost rents a furnished bungalow for people looking for a longer vacation. The bungalow sleeps four and includes two bathrooms and a kitchenette. Before winter, Berry and Warner will add a cabin on the river for visitors.

Despite all of the additions they are planning, Berry and Warner said they will maintain the peaceful atmosphere that first drew them to the outpost.

"The outpost offers a unique experience for paddlers because it is so quiet, and there's a lot less boat traffic on the Withlacoochee River than there is on the Weeki Wachee," Warner said.

"We want our customers to enjoy the wilderness and the wildlife," Berry said.

Business at the Outpost has been slow during the summer, but Warner and Berry predict it will pick up once the thunderstorms stop and the weather cools down.

"We hope a lot of people will come out to the outpost and love it here as much as we do," Warner said. "To us, this is heaven."

IF YOU GO

The Nobleton Canoe Outpost is at 29295 Lake Lindsey Road, Nobleton, on the Withlacoochee River. It is open from 8 a.m. to dusk six days a week; it is closed Tuesdays. If you are transported to a campground for launch, the cost is $40 for a canoe or $35 for a kayak. If you launch from the outpost, the cost is $30 for a canoe or $25 for a kayak. For information, call 796-7176, 796-4343 or toll-free 1-800-783-5284. The Web site, which is under construction, is at: www.nobletonoutpost.com