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Wigwam Gift Shop Closes

By Tammy DanielsiBerkshires Staff
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Karen and Stephen Andrews have operated the Wigwam Gift Shop on the Mohawk Trail for five years. They sold the property in April.

NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — For decades, leaf-peepers have been stopping at the Wigwam Gift Shop at the Western Summit for souvenirs as they made their way over the Mohawk Trail.

But not this year.

After Sunday, Aug. 9, the gift shop will be shuttered along with the little cabins that offered tired travelers a place to rest. The 37-acre property was purchased this past April for $470,000 by the Berkshire Natural Resources Council as it created a protected area of 750 acres along the ridgeline of the Hoosac Range for recreational purposes, especially hiking.

The timing was perfect, said gift shop owners Stephen and Karen Andrews. "It's time for a change. Change is good," said Karen Andrews, in between helping customers snap up half-off deals on everything from souvenir doodads to Fenton glass to sweat shirts to Minnetonka moccasins. "It's been interesting."

"We had a five-year plan," said her husband, a former Marine who spent nearly 30 years as a civilian manager at the Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard in Hawaii. The couple bought the property in early 2005 from Hans-Werner and Inna Gertjie, who had operated the shop for three decades. 

"We figured we'll do it for five years, and we did it for five years," said Stephen Andrews, an Adams native. "We didn't get rich but we made enough to pay the bills. ... It was good for us and good to us."


There was a steady stream of customers on Friday afternoon. The shop will close on Sunday at 5 p.m. The cottages on the property were not opened this year.

The Andrews own a home in the city and plan to do some traveling. Karen Andrews spends the winters with her family in Hawaii, but now they'll have a chance "to get to know each other as a couple again, not as working together every day," said Stephen Andrews.


The Mohawk Trail was once a major thoroughfare between the Pioneer Valley and the Berkshires and gift shops carrying American Indian goods and cheap knock-offs proliferated along the twisting road. The seasonal Wigwam — as guest cottages, restaurant and gift shop — was in a prime spot, overlooking the Hoosac and Stamford, Vt., valleys a 1,000 feet below. Nearly a century old, it was touting the "scenic splendor" that surrounded its dining piazza back in 1925, according to an ad in the North Adams Transcript.

The property was acquired by four far-sighted Mansfield sisters from Stamford as the Mohawk Trail was being reconstructed for automobile traffic. They opened the Wigwam in 1914 at the same time as the highway and ran it for 35 years. It was believed to be the first commercial establishment created in large part to cater to the new highway's travelers.

By the late 1960s, the complex included a five-story observation tower, a single-family home, the gift shop, nine cottages, two garages, the restaurant and a water storage house and pumping station. The deteriorating tower was removed years ago for safety reasons and the restaurant's long gone.


Everything in the store is half off or more.

The council hasn't come forward with plans for the existing buildings, though there have apparently been discussions about possible partnerships with private entities.

Andrews said the couple hadn't been shopping the site; instead, several interested parties had approached them. Selling it to the conservation group fit into the Hawaiian idea of aina, the land, said Stephen Andrews. "We believe in preserving the aina."

Andrews plans to write about his experiences as a gift shop and inn owner on the Mohawk Trail, saying he sees things from a "different perspective" than some.

"I'm going to write a book. I don't know if it will get published, but I'm going to write it."


Tags: gift shop,   Mohawk Trail,   

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'Motherless Brooklyn': Yes, Collusion

By Michael S. GoldbergeriBerkshires Film Critic
Borrowing a smidgen of wiseacre snazziness from "The Maltese Falcon" (1941) and an acidic splash of scandal from "Chinatown" (1974), Edward Norton writes, directs and stars in the best film noir detective yarn to come down the cinema pike since "The Usual Suspects" (1995). And in the process, he probably puts himself in consideration for an Oscar via his Tourette syndrome-afflicted gumshoe, Lionel Essrog, deprived early in the doings of his only friend and mentor, Frank Minna (Bruce Willis). So, we're talking loyalty, revenge and all the stumbling blocks those corrupt powers that be will toss in Lionel's way to deter his retribution, all done to the backdrop of society's worst ways on parade.
 
Dashiell Hammett's Sam Spade described the ethos best upon the occasion of his partner's untimely death in the aforenoted "The Maltese Falcon," the one difference being that Spade, unlike Essrog, wasn't particularly fond of his colleague. Frank was everything to Lionel. As I believe it is instrumental in espousing the nature of duty and devotion, and simply because it's really cool, I'd like to share the paragraph: "When a man's partner is killed he's supposed to do something about it. It doesn't make any difference what you thought of him. He was your partner and you're supposed to do something about it. Then it happens we were in the detective business. Well, when one of your organization gets killed it's bad business to let the killer get away with it. It's bad all around--bad for that one organization, bad for every detective everywhere."
 
Of course, Bogey says it better than I, but I'm working on it. Yet no matter how well I get it, it's still not going to help me follow the labyrinthine twists and turns of this genre, of which "Motherless Brooklyn" boasts, well, a motherlode. If you're that particularly obnoxious sort who has to let everyone in the theater know your uncanny skill at guessing the plot, shh! But for my kindred spirits who, like me, can't figure these things out for the proverbial million dollars, you have to decide whether or not to trust that the director will ultimately tie things up in a manner that will win your satisfaction. I voted in the affirmative.
 
Naturally, a good part of acceding to the mystery ride is dependent on the verbal and visual filigree of the screenplay and how engaging the characterizations are. We soon care about the very likeable Lionel Essrog and want to learn more about him. We want to understand how he copes with his fascinatingly depicted condition, and ultimately hope that not only does he prevail in his mission, but that the challenge at hand proves a breakthrough, putting him closer to enjoying what the mainstream takes for granted. Psst. There's a touching love angle.
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