Couple opens boat rental business on Nashawannuck Pond in Easthampton

By Nyssa Kruse

For the Gazette

Published: 07-03-2017 11:17 AM

EASTHAMPTON — When Melanie Salvaggio and Katie MacCallum moved to Easthampton last year, they were disappointed to learn the city was no longer accepting bids to operate a boat rental business on Nashawannuck Pond.

Then, in 2017, the couple got a message from the city parks department telling them no one had won the previous year’s bid, so the spot was open. They applied and beat out another applicant for the opportunity, allowing them to open Valley Paddler in May.

The business, which rents single and tandem kayaks, pedal boats and a canoe, is open from noon to 8 p.m. Thursday through Monday. Valley Paddler operates from the furthest gangway across from City Hall.

“It seemed like a void in Easthampton,” Salvaggio said. “There was an opportunity to do something we loved and also to give back to the community and make the boardwalk more of a destination.”

Single kayaks cost $15 for the first hour, tandem kayaks and the canoe cost $20 for the first hour, and pedal boats cost $15 for half an hour or $25 for an hour. Valley Paddler usually takes reservations up to 24 hours in advance except during large city events like Cultural Chaos or on popular holidays.

Valley Paddler has no permanent structure on the boardwalk, though it does display an umbrella and cooler during business hours and also sells snacks and water.

Business has been good so far, Salvaggio said, but rainy weather left them unable to open several days in May.

“It’s been really unpredictable, and I think that’s been hard,” Salvaggio said.

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However, with the region’s recent warmer temperatures and sunny skies, she said the business is receiving more reservations, and they’ve expanded hours and days of operation. Salvaggio and MacCallum both work full time outside the business, so they are hiring a few staff members to keep from working seven days a week.

Salvaggio said she and MacCallum love being on the water, but the couple lived in New York City until last year, providing limited opportunities. She said they sought the chance to kayak while on trips, and now, they get to share their beloved pastime with their city.

“We have people who’ve lived here their whole life and have never been on the pond,” Salvaggio said. “That part has been really fulfilling for us as business owners in the community.”