The Transylvania Times -

Headwaters Changes Hands


Last updated 1/4/2012 at 5:13pm

Sid Cullipher is the new owner of the Headwaters Outfitters, which has been a significant business in the Rosman area for the past 20 years. (Courtesy photo)

After almost 20 years in the business, Debi Whitmire has sold Headwaters Outfitters to Sid Cullipher, Headwaters’ program director. The sale was finalized Dec. 30.

“Our original mission statement said that we wanted ‘to be recognized as one of the best outdoor recreational outfitters in the Southeast,’ and after almost 20 years I feel like we have accomplished that goal,” said Whitmire. “Now it’s time to write a new chapter for Headwaters Outfitters, and I am confident that Sid Cullipher and his staff will be able to carry on the tradition of excellence that Headwaters Outfitters has become known for in the industry and among our customers, many of whom return year after year.”

Cullipher, who has been program director for three years, is acutely aware of the large shoes he must fill to continue the success of Headwaters Outfitters.

“Debi Whitmire built this business from scratch,” said Cullipher. “And while others assisted in various capacities over the years, it always came down to her drive and creativity and never-give-up attitude. As a woman business owner in a male dominated industry, Debi always operated under the assumption that she had to work twice as hard and be twice as creative.

“Headwaters Outfitters and the paddling and Fly Fishing industries have benefitted greatly from Debi’s efforts over the years.”


In April 1992, a group of friends — two husband/wife teams, Sammy and Mary Kay Cathey, and David and Debi Whitmire, and a mother/son team of Art Fox and Sarah Fabans, opened up a little canoe livery in downtown Rosman, across from Jarrett’s Store.

They started with an eight-passenger van and 10 boats and stayed open only from April through October.

From those beginnings, Headwaters Outfitters was born.

“We mainly started it to create employment opportunities for local kids,” Whitmire recalled. “We all paddled like crazy back then. We thought, ‘Hey, we have this wonderful river in our backyard and nobody is running trips down it.’”

A move from downtown Rosman to the “Forks of the River,” at the intersection of U.S. 64 and N.C. 215, in 1994 gave the outfitters the perfect location for the growing paddling and tubing business, as well as space for a small retail operation. Even the 100-year flood of 1994, which occurred at the end of the third season and crested 12 inches inside the river shop, did not hinder the growth of the company.

The 1997 operating season brought tremendous change to Headwaters Outfitters, when partnerships were sold and bought.

The result of these changes continued the family-owned tradition. David’s dad, James Whitmire, and his wife, Bobbi, joined forces with Debi and David.

Headwaters Outfitters has tried to be more than just a paddling business. The business has sponsored the Upper French Broad River Cleanups every spring and fall.

Headwaters Outfitters has worked with the Transylvania County School system to educate students of all ages on the natural and social history and ecology of the French Broad through programs such as “Virtual Canoe Trips” for elementary school students and free paddling clinics for high school students.

Whitmire said her reason to sell the business now is “bitter sweet” but with an emphasis on the latter.

She is ready for a “break and to chill out” after many 80-hour work weeks over the years.

Her husband, David, plans to refocus efforts on his business, Sapphire Landscaping.

Whitmire will also have more opportunities to visit their daughter, a freshman at N.C. State University, while still being active in the paddling world. Whitmire is a board member of the Professional Paddlesport Association.

Whitmire thanked the community for its support, including the river cleanup efforts.

“I’m ready for a change and new ventures,” she said.

Headwaters will be officially closed until Jan. 10 to complete the business transfer.

The retail shop will reopen for business on Jan. 10, and Headwaters Outfitters will begin its winter casting clinics and fly tying clinics on Saturday, Jan. 14.

The fly tying clinic will feature “Mac’s October Caddis” design. Reservations for the clinics are necessary and can be made by calling 877-3106.

The official grand opening of the new ownership will take place on April 1 in conjunction with a 20-year anniversary celebration.


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