You wouldn’t think the small town of Marquette, Michigan, which boasts a population of 19,000, would be home to a thriving outdoor store that got its start in the late 70s by selling pre-cut down sewing kits and Hobie Cat sailboats. But then again, why not? Down Wind Sports has become quite the institution, and a central character in the growing adventure community of the U.P.
A stone’s throw from the Canadian border, the modest town of Marquette is located on the south shore of Lake Superior, home to some of the world’s best ice climbing you’ve never heard of. It also has downhill skiing, cross country skiing, mountain biking, climbing, sailing, sea kayaking and, because you can, shipwreck diving. With such impressive natural terrain in the area, locals have thrived here in the last several decades. And Down Wind has been a large reason why that’s happened.
Originally opened by Dennis and Nancy Henderson in 1976, Down Wind Sports was purchased in 1998 by three long-time employees Bill Thompson, Jeff Strasser and Todd King. “Having three partners goes against every business plan I’ve ever read,” says Thompson, “but from our perspective it works.” And it does. There are currently two Down Wind Sports shops: downtown Marquette, and the DWS “North” store, located in Houghton.