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SUP Tahoe reflects on move, business

Jack Barnwell
jbarnwell@tahoedailytribune.com
Jessica Howitt and Brandon Miller opened up SUP Tahoe - Stand up Paddle in 2012. After a move in 2014 and a new shop, the business continues to do well.
Photo courtesy of Brandon Miller |

A year after pulling up stakes and navigating uncertain waters, SUP Tahoe-Stand up Paddle owners and husband/wife team Brandon Miller and Jessica Howitt have continued to strive.

SUP Tahoe opened its doors in 2012 in the building now occupied by BevMO! in the “Y” at highways 50 and 89 with 12 paddle boards.

“We originally began with the goal of doing rentals and saw the demand for retail sales,” Miller said.



In 2014, both SUP Tahoe and its neighbor, South Shore Bikes, were given the notice to vacate the building, leaving both businesses to scramble.

Miller and Howitt applied for a Small Business Administration loan and purchased the old Lake Tahoe Chinese Buffet restaurant building at 871 Emerald Bay Road.



“That was a huge challenge because in three months we had to tear down the Chinese Buffet and build this building,” Miller said.

“For seven weeks we had to operate out of storage containers in the parking lot,” Miller said.

The building also houses South Shore Bikes, who is a tenant. Miller said it was a solid relationship and share similar spots in the recreation economy.

“We co-exist a little bit,” Miller said.

Howitt noted the relative ease at which the permitting process flew by for them through the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency (TRPA) and City of South Lake Tahoe.

“Everyone said it was going to be difficult dealing with TRPA and the city,” Howitt said. Dealing with them proved quite easy and amazing to work with.

Howitt and Miller gave credit to city associate planner Judy Finn and building inspector Dave Walker for helping to clear hurdles.

“We’re happy to invest in the community and build a nice new building,” Miller said.

Another component of giving back and encouraging environmental growth is the SUP Tahoe partnership with Trees for the Future, a nonprofit organization that plants in developing countries around the world. Howitt said SUP would help plant two new trees for every board rental and five trees for every board purchase.

Miller grew up in Hawaii and Howitt was born and raised in South Lake Tahoe, and saw a possible demand for a paddle board shop on the South Shore.

“We wanted a business opportunity to be able to live in Tahoe during the summers,” Miller said.

Howitt added that since “there’s a shop on every corner in Hawaii,” adding one more might meet some demands for a growing sport and pastime in Lake Tahoe.

While neither engage in standup paddleboarding as a sport, they’re both active recreational paddleboarders.

“We do it for fun and to get out there and relax,” Howitt said. “It’s definitely eco-friendly.”


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