After buying their first canoe in 1942, Chester and Stella Heavner were hooked. So were their friends. After constantly loaning out their red-canvas Old Town canoe, the pair invested in two more and started charging a nominal rental fee. In 1953, they made it official with a patch of lakefront property, eight canoes, and a trailer.
Today, Heavner Canoe & Kayak Rental is run by Chester and Stella’s eldest son, Alan. He and his staff manage an inventory of more than 200 canoes and kayaks, which they rent at three lakes along the Huron River. In addition to hourly rentals, they teach beginning kayak lessons led by instructors certified by the American Canoe Association and the American Red Cross. The sessions cover water safety, stroke techniques, and how to play dead when being attacked by a bigger kayak.