Illustration by Mark Wilson
On a recent trip to Park Street in Tupper Lake, I scored a tasty panini, a pretty pair of beaded earrings, fringed leather booties and a box of maple chaga tea. I’m from the North Country and I’ve known Tupper since I was a kid, but you can feel something exciting happening here. It has everything to do with fresh new businesses on Park Street and the village landing a $10 million New York State Downtown Revitalization Initiative grant. Both are investments in a place whose economy has lagged since the shuttering of the Oval Wood Dish (OWD) factory in the 1960s, global shifts in the lumber industry and, in recent years, the closing of Big Tupper Ski Area.
Rachel King owns Earth Girl at the Crystal Forest boutique, where she sells crystals, her handmade jewelry, and handcarved stone and metalwork by her partner, Brandon Cooke. She chose to be in Tupper, she says, because “there’s space for new ideas and growth. You get to stand out and shine.” And her location, between gift shop/bakery Spruce & Hemlock and eatery Well Dressed Food, has “great foot traffic.”
King’s parents used to own Tupper’s Main Street Restaurant. She remembers her community as “a place that was hopping.” Now, she says, “it’s just really cool to be a part of bringing that energy back to my town.”
King is among a group of young Tupper-born entrepreneurs that includes Garrett Kopp, whose wildcrafted fungi operation, Birch Boys, makes and sells teas and tinctures in the basement of the Adirondack Store & Gallery. Kopp played on Tupper’s varsity hockey team with Broyce Guerette, who, with his wife, Allison, owns the Leather Artisan. Tupper, says Kopp, is “one of the realest places on Earth. It really is Small Town USA, where people help each other out.”
Tupper Arts’ headquarters is also on Park. The nonprofit sells local artisans’ work and hosts exhibitions, lectures, workshops and performances. And rumors are swirling about a new brewery and boutique lodging on upper Park. All of this, combined with stalwarts Reandeau’s Swiss Kitchen—favorite breakfast joint of Tupper’s new professional baseball team, the Riverpigs—and the Washboard, a beloved donut shop where you can throw in a load of laundry, signal success.
Then there’s the revitalization grant. The money will freshen up Park Street facades, support local businesses and several proposed hotels, add docks and improve facilities at Municipal Park on the village’s waterfront, and help redevelop the former OWD factory into a 90-unit housing complex with retail space. Converting OWD, “once the biggest lumber-producing mill in the state of New York,” says Tupper Lake mayor Paul Maroun, “will offer mixed-income housing and alleviate Tupper’s housing crunch.” This is on top of so much that’s already happening here, from the Wild Center to the Sky Center & Observatory and new James C. Frenette Sr. Recreational Trails, strung with motion lights for night skiing. Maroun says, “We’re going to make this a stronger community—for tourists and for the people who live here.”
And for those, like Rachel King, who already believe in the potential of Tupper Lake, “Oh my gosh,” she says. “When these things happen, it’s going to blow us all away.”