Yakima and NRS Founder Bill Parks

Yakima & Northwest River Supplies

Whether to stream, river, lake, or ocean, Yakima has easily and safely been getting people to the water going on five wild, original decades. To celebrate our 40th year, we talked with legendary river runner Bill Parks, founder of NRS (Northwest River Supplies).

A Longtime Water Lover & Yakima Customer

Passionate about helping others enjoy the sport he’d come to love so much as a river runner guide, in 1972 Bill started NRS with $2,000 from his savings, stocked an inventory of boating gear in his garage, and typed up his first product catalog.

“You can see the original Yakima Rack (known as ‘gold bars’) in this photo of a mistreated 1950s station wagon that I restored in the early 1970s,” Bill boasts. “And I still own a prototype of the BasketCase, Yakima’s first wire-mesh luggage carrier.”

Remembering Yakima’s First Founders

As a fellow entrepreneur in the early days of water sports, Bill knew the humble folks who ran a small machine stop in the town of Yakima, Washington, Otto and Jeanne Lagervall.

“Otto was exceptional,” Bill recalls. “He started out as a trumpet player with the New York Philharmonic and invented the folding music stand. As an engineer, he later designed a rack (the first of its kind) to get his touring kayak to the water, along with foot braces and a rudder.” Today, Otto’s rack still helps water-lovers navigate hard crosswinds and surf today.

Bill remembers Otto as honest and conscientious to a fault. “He didn’t raise prices and didn’t make much money because there was quite a bit of inflation. Otto was so dedicated, he slept in an easy chair that he kept in his shop.”

Bill Park and friends scouting a rapid

Moving Forward While Honoring Tradition

When the time came to sell, the Lagervalls chose outdoor fanatics who shared Otto’s vision and would take the company further: kayakers Don Banducci and Steve Cole, who brought the renamed Yakima Products to Arcata, California, in 1979. The rest became our proud, multi-sport history.

Yakima founders Don Banducci and Steve Cole

Likewise, NRS has thrived after its original founder passed the baton. Recently retired as he approached his 80th birthday, Bill Parks sold NRS to nearly 100 employee-owners who share his singular vision. Like Yakima, NRS continues building on a heritage of innovating solutions for adventurers who are drawn to the water.

 

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