By Abigail Woodall
Todd, North Carolina may not have as many attractions as other Western North Carolina towns, however the community’s spirit is certainly high. One of Todd’s attractions is RiverGirl Fishing Company, which is celebrating their 15th anniversary on July 24th. Kelly McCoy, founder of RiverGirl, had ample opportunities to go out to the coastal region in North Carolina and apply her knowledge from her degree in fisheries biology, but found herself asking, “what can I do in Todd, to benefit the town and the river?”. She took her college nickname, “river girl”, and before she knew it RiverGirl Fishing Company was born. Business took off in 2006, in Todd’s Mercantile, where McCoy had a table upstairs where she could inform locals and visitors about the River. Now, fifteen years later, her own shop is set up in the heart of the North Carolina High Country, running out of an old train depot.
At RiverGirl Fishing Co., customers can indulge in numerous activities along or by the New River: tubing, kayaking, canoeing, ecotours, fly fishing, and biking. The staff at RiverGirl Fishing keep themselves busy with managing equipment, supporting customers on their trips down the New River, and find themselves being immersed into community projects. Grace Johnson, current staff member, has spent multiple days working at a Todd local’s home, helping paint their house. Staff at RiverGirl are truly never limited when it comes to how they can be involved inside and outside of the Todd community.
Customers unfamiliar with RiverGirl might be shocked when they hop in their kayak, and it’s a fourteen-year-old giving them a hand. Having junior staff members is a testament to her passion for giving the community opportunities for education and seeking purpose. She has never asked parents to send their kids to help, it was the kids who willingly stepped up to the plate, eager to get involved. McCoy strives to demonstrate to the junior staff how a business runs as well as giving them an opportunity to build their confidence. Former staff member, Breanna Meehan, started working at RiverGirl with her best friend when they were just teenagers. They were able to learn how to manage time, monitor weather, and of course handle the river equipment. Meehan explains that during the crazier days of working at RiverGirl, she never failed to enjoy the magic that the tiny town of Todd holds.
Not only has the RiverGirl staff grown to be a close-knit family, the community of customers and Todd has grown as well. McCoy is confident in saying that word of mouth has been RiverGirl’s best marketing tool. Chris Richardson, loyal customer to RiverGirl, says himself, “I would say over the past four years, I’ve personally introduced RiverGirl to about 150 different people… and then they turn and go tell everyone they know!” Customers see the playful and loving relationship between staff members, and chime into the energy and spirit of the business. Word of mouth is how I, myself, found my RiverGirl family. Early spring, I was in like for my second COVID-19 vaccination and struck up conversation with a volunteer, who happened to be close friends with the RiverGirl team. He suggested that I reach out to Kelly and look into a summer job with RiverGirl. Before I knew it, I was working with a phenomenal group of individuals… all thanks to word of mouth.
More frequent customers will agree that RiverGirl offers more than the various river activities. For Chris Richardson, RiverGirl has taught him to keep life simple. Richardson’s annual tubing trip to RiverGirl consists of over one hundred friends and family members. During their day trip on the river, Richardson says, “my folks have no choice but to disconnect from outside life and just live in the moment.” Like Richardson, Sherrie Dulany is appreciative of RiverGirl’s ability to remind her to disconnect from the stresses of life and relax on the river. Dulany says, “my kids will tell you I am often high strung, so I like to take the time to be ‘zen’ on the river!” However, it is more than the memories on the river. Constance Spencer, one of the first RiverGirl customers and friends, has the favorite RiverGirl memory of McCoy dressing as the Easter Bunny. She would kayak down to Todd Island Park in full Easter Bunny attire, to greet the kids with hugs and treats. One special Easter, however, McCoy secretly invited Spencer to meet Renata, McCoy’s partner, and friends later that afternoon. Spencer says that afternoon, “the easter Bunny entered, pulled off the costume head, dropped to one knee proposed to Renata!” This is ultimate proof that RiverGirl customers often grow to be family, sharing special life moments with the RiverGirl team.
Fifteen years of RiverGirl has meant the world to RiverGirl staff and customers. Throughout these years, McCoy believes that the most memorable moments are when customers’ trips end with someone saying, “this was the most fun thing they have ever done!” Just the other day, McCoy recalls assisting a child into the river who floated away exclaiming, “this is the best day of my life!” RiverGirl may be a small outfitter compared to others, but the experiences that staff and customers have are far more incredible and meaningful. For Chris Richardson, RiverGirl is “genuine”. For Constance Spencer, it’s “heartfelt environmental adventures”. For Sherrie Dulany, it’s “an escape”. From 2006 to 2021, RiverGirl has been supplying the community with adventure, mentoring, and sincere experiences. It is safe to say that the RiverGirl and greater Todd community are excited to see what else is to come in the next years.