I ordered a greenland paddle from Joe back in September and haven't heard back since. I tried emailing him a couple of times last month and also contacting him through his Facebook page but have not received any responses on either.
I can share some experience on this subject. I purchased a paddle set and a few other items from Joe many years ago. Great paddles. Very high quality for a backyard shop; high quality by any standard. I did recommend them to others. I had many email conversations with him in those years and counted him as a friend.
Once or twice I recall seeing posts like yours on paddling forums, including Paddling.net and would send him an email to let him know a customer was having trouble contacting him and to address it. I didn't think much of it at the time.
A few years ago I ordered a two piece GP from him and made the mistake of sending the money up front. It was about $300 CAD best as I recall. The order was placed in very early winter, intending that it be done by spring for the next paddling season. That's when I stopped hearing from him.
When spring was approaching, I suffered the same problems; multiple emails went unanswered for months at a time. I changed my message from "Where's my paddle?" to "If you can't deliver this then refund me my money.". This also went unanswered. By about June I finally got my last email from him claiming that he had suffered an injury and was unable to work on the paddle, but that he would be done very soon.
I reiterated that either send the paddle or refund the money. I think I also made it clear that failing to communicate was not acceptable. And that was the last I ever heard of him. It's been a few years since then.
Another friend in another online forum claimed others he knew had similar experiences.
This was very disappointing to me not just for the one order. I like to support local businesses, especially with quality products. But I can not recommend his business based on my experience. Not once has he reached out to me to make this right.
For anyone on Vancouver Island looking to order Greenland paddles, I am happy to put a plug in for Randy Millar, who makes beautiful and functional paddles in his shop near Nanaimo. He only creates a small number of them per year (my paddle was an 8 week turn around, but it depends on his schedule). He's reliable and really stands behind his work.
I will second that. I've had 2 paddles made by Randy Millar, a very reliable guy.
Not surprised about Joe O'Blenis, he's had that bad reputation for several years now. 10 years go, I ordered a long Greenland paddle with him and got a short storm paddle instead that I have basically used for spare.
On the carbon side, Novorca and Northern light paddles have had the same reputation problem at a much higher cost. Novorca has been out of business for a few years. His paddles were spectacular if you were lucky to receive it.
Sometimes fine craftman don't make good business man.
My last 2 carbon paddles have come from Superior and Gearlab paddles who are totally reliable companies.
There is always a danger in ordering from a small shop, especially when it is a one man shop. This sounds similar to the situation with Patrick at Onno Paddles. If anything goes astray with that one man, your order is in trouble. Even when that one man is a fine person and does wonderful work, that person can encounter an unwelcome stumbling block. Nevertheless, that doesn't dissuade me from buying from a small shop.
My most recent paddle from a small shop is my quill paddle from Nimbus (last I heard, it was a 2 man shop on Quadra Island). It is by far, my favorite paddle and especially easy on my arthritic shoulder.