Wigwam Gift Shop Closes
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."
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