Michael Budman: Roots founder

Camp Tamakwa alumnus

"It's safe to say," says Roots clothing company co-founder Michael Budman, "that there might not be a Roots if there hadn't been Camp Tamakwa." Read more


Growing up in Detroit, Michigan, Budman had attended some local camps, but at age 10 he was ready for the big-time — Camp Tamakwa, the 75-year-old Canadian-American camp set on the shores of Algonquin Park's South Tea Lake in northern Ontario. "It's one of the most beautiful campsites in the world — a magical place," says Budman. It's also where he and fellow camper Don Green became buddies and hatched their plan to open a shoe store in Toronto that eventually grew into an international clothing empire.

Budman loved everything about the camp. He loved the Slope, a unique set of stairs into the lake. He loved the canoe dock, where he worked for two summers as the canoe instructor. He loved the Blue Moons, special nights where counsellors would recreate fairy tales for the younger campers, such as Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, then the next day pretend nothing had happened. And he loved the way people dressed, in lumberjack shirts and rubber boots. Outdoorsy clothes such as hooded sweatshirts, sweatpants, and other athletic apparel, became the theme when Budman and Green became clothing entrepreneurs. Today, many Roots stores have a camp cabin feel with exposed wood beams, wooden fixtures, canoes and and wall-mounted canoe paddles.

Budman still spends summers in Algonquin Park. Kayaking last August, he saw three counsellors and six campers heading out on a nine-day canoe trip. "In this day and age of overprotected kids, that was an impressive sight," says Budman, whose two children, now grown, also attended Tamakwa. As did Green's three children. No matter what a child's family situation — Budman came from a divorced home — camp is the great leveller, he says. "Without parents, homes, material possessions, camp allows opportunities for everybody to be equal." 

 

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