The Wigwam has reopened as West Summit Merchant, although the old sign is still above the shop. The Planning Board approved the business in June.
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — A gift shop that opened for the debut of the Mohawk Trail has reopened in time for its centennial.
West Summit Merchant, formerly known as the Wigwam, opened this past weekend at the popular overlook at the top of the Hairpin Turn.
"I really don't know what to expect," said proprietor Keith Bona on Monday, but he's noted there's plenty of traffic from all over the country making its way over the historic roadway. "On the first day, I think we had every western state there."
He ticked off license plates from California, Colorado, Nebraska, California, Oregon and Washington, tourists from as Sweden and Japan.
Bona, who operates Berkshire Emporium and Antiques on Main Street, took on the task of reviving the gift shop at the request of owners Roger and Colleen Hurst. The two parties partnered to renovate the building, fill it with inventory and manage it.
So this weekend a family of four from Pennsylvania came in and bought Yankee souvenirs; then a German man with little English stopped by and picked up Red Sox stuff. And they're all getting out of their cars to look across the Hoosac Valley without really knowing where they are — or that North Adams is the city in the distance.
Bona, also a city councilor, said he's gone outside and spoken to the travelers to explain what's in the valley, suggesting they stop in the city for lunch, or drive up Mount Greylock or visit one of the world-class museums below. A graphic artist, he's hoping to put up signage and directions to some of the more interesting spots to visit in the city, Adams and Williamstown.
Bona thought it was fitting he expand into the summit gift shop, with Berkshire Emporium celebrating its 10th year and the trail its 100th.
Motorists stop for the scenery, such as this sunset from the summit.
"I understand the Mohawk Trail isn't what is was in the 1960s, but there is a bit of a revival of travelers doing short back-road New England destination trips," Bona said in announcing the opening of the shop. "I've seen a lot of people in my Main Street store over the past couple of years that let the road decide where they may end up."
The gift shop was opened in 1914 by the Mansfield sisters to take advantage of what was then a newly built scenic road that somewhat followed the path blazed by native tribes and pioneers. The property changed through several hands and the shop was shuttered in 2009 when the Berkshire Natural Resources Council purchased it along with its attached 37 acres to add to its conserved land along the mountain ridge.
A year or so later, owners of the Red Lion Inn and the Porches bought the shop, tourist cabins and house along the roadway to turn into a boutique hotel, but modern codes and complex terrain scrubbed the idea. The Hursts purchased the property as a home because Colleen grew up in the area and Roger liked the view, according to Bona. They also operate the Mountain Top Grill food truck at the site.
The inventory consists of gifts, local crafts, Native American products and souvenirs, and a selection of antiques; Bona said he sends visitors looking for more to his Main Street store. Fudge, which had been made on site in the past, is now being supplied by I Got Goodies, which has some of the original fudge-making equipment from the Wigwam.
The seasonal gift shop will be open from May to mid-October Thursday through Monday. Bona said the response has been "overwhelming."
"As a business person, it comes down to will it make money or not," he said. "My expectations aren't high to start, and I will be happy to cover expenses, and hopefully put a little aside. As a local resident, it's a nice feeling knowing I helped reopen a little store many consider a landmark. The rest is up to the patrons to see how it will succeed.
"If a quarter of the people who stop for the view buy one item, we should be alright."
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