Paddleboarding and axe throwing may not be the first things that come to your mind when someone mentions Pella, but some day they might climb the list.
Mike Rus ventured into the paddleboard rental business, SUP Red Rock, four years ago and in July, opened Ro-Co Adventure on Franklin Street. He recently partnered with Josh Visser to open DeRoos Axe Throwing on Friday and Saturday nights.
All of these names have different meanings. For instance, SUP is an acronym for Stand Up Paddleboarding. Ro-Co is short for Recreational Outdoor Company and DeRoos is Dutch for bull’s eye.
Rus’s father grew up in Pella. He returned to town to check out Central College’s football program. Rus liked what he saw and majored in business at Central and has been here since 2010. He and his graphic artist fiance – who designs all of the artwork for his various businesses – like the community and intend to stay.
When Rus was in college, he came to believe that there was not much to do on Lake Red Rock. He was an avid paddleboarder, and decided to take a leap of faith and start a board rental company with 10 boards. In the early days of his business, he held jobs at various other companies around Pella.
It did not take long for the rental business to grow into a full-time job. The sport has become so popular that on July 4, 2019, there were 387 paddleboarders who hit the lake with their own boards. Most paddleboarders prefer their own equipment, as opposed to renting.
Rus looked for more opportunities to grow. He began to sell boards as well, before designing and selling his own line last summer. He sold his first five on Amazon.com, before opening his physical store.
“It’s fun to see the sport grow,” Rus said. He has sold boards in four states, including one he personally delivered to a customer in Vermont. “It was cool. It was good to meet the customer.”
Rus’s design is a three-fin system, which the 15-year paddleboarding expert has found is better than two fins that most boards have. He is proud to say that all of his boards are designed in Pella, though he has to outsource the production. The boards are made of bamboo and importing enough for his products is cost-prohibitive.
The rental business is still going, and he is willing to teach anyone how to paddleboard. He makes many trips to the lake in the summer.
RoCo is his first foray into running a retail business. He has been working with several vendors to bring top-quality merchandise into the store. It has also provided him a showroom for his boards. But overall, his vision for RoCo is for the building to become a hub for recreational desires of Pella, surrounding communities and visitors to the Red Rock area. He plans to host different outdoor excursions in the years to come.
“The vision for this store…is to involve the community in recreational events,” Rus said.
His inspiration for DeRoos came after he took a trip to Minnesota. After throwing axes there, he knew Pella needed such a place. Within six weeks, he and Visser found the location.
Rus’s vision for DeRoos is to offer another place for people to hang out on the weekend. They can bring their own food and beverages, form teams and have fun. It includes a selfie wall, giant Jenga and more. Since April, he has hosted many corporate events.
While having a lot of fun, DeRoos has hosted competitions for the World Axe Throwing League. Scores can be entered into a national database from the Pella site.
Rus believes business at DeRoos will pick up as the weather gets colder. People will still want to recreate, but without freezing. Half of his current building site for DeRoos is empty, but he has visions of possibly adding an escape room – if there is sufficient space to make it as intricate and challenging as he envisions.
Rus is far from done venturing into new business opportunities. As Des Moines builds a large skate park, he is already exploring the possibility of opening a skate shop nearby. With so many businesses in his hands, he remains calm and collected.
“I’m just going with the flow, stayed positive and helping people, basically,” Rus said. The stress does not leave his mind, but as he says of being an entrepreneur, “The benefits way outweigh the stress.”