Maple Lake native Joe Rassat is one of those rare and fortunate people who has found a way to turn his life’s passion into a satisfying, profitable career.
Even better, says Rassat, is the fact he’s found a way to do it from the home town that he loves.
An avid angler and sportsman, Rassat has dedicated his life to the outdoor industry and lifestyle.
“I started out at H&H Sport Shop,” he said, “working for Frank and Iris Hogan when I was 15 years old, dipping minnows and sorting leeches. Maybe that doesn’t sound too appealing to a lot of people, but I just loved it. I worked there until I was 21.”
And as the founder and president of Rassat Outdoor Group, a marketer of outdoor recreation supplies, Rassat is proud today to include his first employer –and many local family businesses like it -on a long list of clients that also boasts such luminaries as Bass Pro Shops, Cabela’s, Gander Mountain, Scheels, Sportsman’s Warehouse, Mills Fleet Farm and Dick’s Sporting Goods.
A national presence Rassat Outdoor Group
employs 11 people, three of whom are based in Maple Lake, along with sales professionals in Orono, Brainerd, Bemidji in
Minnesota, as well as those covering territories in Wisconsin, South Dakota, Indiana and New York. This team, comprising more than 150 combined years of experience in the outdoor industry, represents products made by Northland Fishing Tackle, Rapala, AP Outdoors, INtermedia Outdoors, Maxit Designs High-end Performance Wear, Flying Fisherman, Hi-Country Snack Foods and Zephyr, among others.
In May, Rassat Outdoor Group was named Agency of the Year by Rapala USA, which would be quite an achievement for any marketing company, but especially notable for one that’s been in business for just over two years.
But while Rassat’s company may be a relative newcomer to the outdoor industry, he and his sales team are anything but.
A graduate of St. Cloud Technical College with a major in merchandizing, marketing and sales, Rassat is also a 20-year veteran of the Pure Fishing global family of fishing tackle brands. Over time, he says, he worked his way up from the ground floor to managerial positions, and for six years was national sales manager, in charge of more than $40 million in business.
But eventually Pure Fishing, originally a family-owned entity, sold to Jarden Corporation, a Fortune 500 conglomerate steering the prospects of more than 100 international giants such as Oster, Rival, Coleman and Mr. Coffee.
“I was asked to move to South Carolina,” Rassat said, “which I didn’t really want to do. I left on good terms, and that led to creating Rassat Outdoor Group.”
A home-town base Assembling a crack team
of sales talent, Rassat started with Andy Segner, a Pure Fishing colleague and son of the late Jim Segner, owner of Little Jim’s Sports, Inc., in Annandale.
“I started up in May of 2009, in my home,” Rassat said. “Little Jim’s and the Segners really helped me get started.”
He has since moved his operation to a site in Maple Lake’s Industrial Park. The journey from his minnow-dipping days to where he is now, Rassat said, has been slow and steady, and he is grateful for every step along the way.
“I’ve had a blessed career,” he said. “How many people get to do what they love? I enjoy spending time with my customers. I get to take people fishing; they have to try the product. I’ve fished over 30 states. I’ve been fishing in Finland, Mexico, Canada and Alaska. I can’t even guess how many kinds of fish I’ve caught.”
His regular travels include a dozen or so distributer shows each fall, half as many consumer
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