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Pair rescued moulds used by Ontario manufacturer

When Jean-Daniel Petit, above, and his friend Guillaume Leblanc bought Mid-Canada Fiberglass Ltd. the maker of canoes and kayaks was crumbling, beleaguered by the recession and a shrinking interest in paddle sports. The bank was liquidating assets while hungry competitors circled, hoping to pounce on the moulds for the Scott, Bluewater and Impex designs that had once made the heritage brand one of the largest canoe manufacturers in North America.

Christinne Muschi/The Globe and Mail

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By the winter of 2014, the pair had developed a business plan and dragged the moulds and remains of Mid-Canada across the provincial border from Ontario to Rouyn-Noranda, Que.

Alex Strohl Photography/Abitibi and Co.

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By this September, Abitibi, which has 20 employees, is on track to double the sales of its two lines of canoes, which retail for $1,000 to $5,000, and its kayaks, which go for $2,000 and up. “We’d love to get to 1,500 units a year,” says Mr. Petit.

Abitibi and Co.

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Abitibi built custom canoes for display in this Filson outdoors shop in Washington, D.C.

asicophoto/Joy Asico/Abitibi and Co.

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Thus far, the company has presold its boats through about 20 select dealers to keep order volumes in line with their limited capacity. But with the United States recreational market rebounding and the low Canadian dollar making their product cheaper, the founders think it’s time to boost the U.S. share of their business to a third of sales, up from the current 10 per cent.

Abitibi and Co.

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The fluctuating loonie is making planning difficult, however.

Abitibi and Co.

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“How do we make sure we don’t recreate the same thing that happened [to Mid-Canada] by building a huge customer base in the U.S. then losing that customer base overnight?”

Abitibi and Co.

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