- Since launching Shank’s Mare Outfitters, Liz Winand and her husband, Steve, have educated tens of thousands of people about sustainability.
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During her last kayaking trip to Florida, Liz Winand paddled with the dolphins. A pod surrounded her kayak, playfully going under and around.
“They were right there,” Liz says. “It was just thrilling.”
Experiences like that remind Liz why she and her husband, Steve, started Shank’s Mare Outfitters in Wrightsville in the first place — to connect people with the natural world around them.
Go play outside
In the 1970s, Liz and Steve were self-proclaimed hippies, backpacking and exploring every outdoor sport they stumbled upon.
“We were young and dumb and adventurous,” Liz says.
They left corporate jobs in 1978 to launch their specialty outdoor shop, Shank’s Mare — an old Scottish saying meaning “to travel by foot.”
Located in an 1880s-era general store along the banks of the Susquehanna River, the business offers equipment sales and rentals, instruction, and trips that focus on kayaking, paddleboarding, and disc golf.
“We really wanted to be able to not just sell gear,” Liz says. “We wanted to teach people how to use it, how to use it safely, and how to use it for their real enjoyment. Teaching and running trips completes that circle.”
Impacting a generation
This mindset naturally grew into offering student field trips. Each year, nearly 1,000 students come to Shank’s Mare.
Liz and her team walk them through a stream study where they learn about macroinvertebrates and their importance to waterway health. In a history segment, they learn about the river from the time of Native Americans through today.
Middle and high school students take a kayak out into the Susquehanna to learn about its relationship to the Chesapeake Bay.
Throughout 25 years of offering these trips as well as summer camps and lessons, Liz estimates Shank’s Mare has worked with 20,000 students.
“I think that’s the most rewarding thing about our career here is the impact that we have on people,” she says.
‘What you put value on’
As consumers have shifted to preferring two-day delivery over custom-fit equipment, Liz often asks herself if what she offers is really what the world wants anymore.
She’s not sure what the future holds for Shank’s Mare.
“It’s always a question,” she says. “It was a question before we had kids. It was a question when you don’t have two nickels to rub together and you gotta figure out how to make ends meet and you’re responsible for a family.”
But then she turns around and thinks of her 10-year-old granddaughter, who loves everything about what they do.
“You have to get yourself up and brush yourself off and use your head and think outside the box,” she says. “There’s always something exciting that happens or there’s always a new person to meet or a new experience to have. That’s what you put value on.”