TUPPER LAKE - This village's only natural food store, Health Hub, is moving to a new location at 320 Park St., just up the road from its present location in the old C.J.'s Tavern building at 211 Park St.
The new site is the long-vacant former Park Restaurant building, situated between Shaheen's Adirondack Inn and the Park Motel.
Owner Cherie Whitten hopes the move to the larger building will allow her to expand.
"I had a long-range vision for what the store was going to be, that it would be a hub, more than just a retail outlet," she said. "I want it to be a place to bring together farm products, artisans, handmade goods, homemade food, education and entertainment."
Whitten, who owns a farm with her husband Daniel just outside of Potsdam, was drawn to Tupper Lake by virtue of its need.
"I was working with Wholeshare, an internet platform where people will buy and share wholesale orders," she said. "And someone from Tupper contacted me and said they needed a farmer to bring produce down here."
A recipient of a $30,000 microenterprise grant for equipment upgrades, Whitten realized that her former location was too small for the kinds of coolers, freezers and storage units she needed. A big reason for the move, Whitten said, was that upgrading the old building would simply be too expensive.
"I'm really appreciative of the owners for giving us this opportunity." The 320 Park St. building had been owned by LeRoy Pickering and Jeannel Lizotte.
In addition to the expanded storage, Whitten also plans to have a large farmers market on site and more prepared food offerings. Additionally, entertainment will be featured on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights, when the store has typically been busy with hikers and tourists. Whitten plans to offer a full salad bar, soup selections and an expanded "grab and go" menu.
"I've already booked my first act," Whitten said. "Alex Smith from Long Lake on July 22. He's sort of a storyteller. And he does folk and bluegrass. He's his own style."
On Sundays and Mondays beginning in July, Whitten plans to offer family-style or "long-table" dining using all local ingredients.
"I imagine the store being a larder for a farm to long-table dining experience," she said. "So far I have four local chefs on board. I'm going to feature different chefs based on the different ingredients."
Before Whitten's full vision for the Health Hub can materialize, she is focusing on practical improvements. This past weekend her family came to Tupper Lake to put a new metal roof on the building. Two of her sons who work as contractors plan on doing many of the improvements to the old restaurant.
"There was some concern (at the last town planning board meeting) from Shaheen's and the Park Motel that the exhaust fan might be too loud. It was historically a problem for them - knocking, whirring, squeaking," Whitten said. "And we're going to look at it."
Maggie Ernenwein, who co-owns the Park Motel with her husband, Jerry, is looking forward to a change in the neighborhood.
"Anything is better than having it rotting into the ground," Ernenwein said.
Terry and Robyn Doolen, owners of Shaheen's Adirondack Inn, were optimistic.
"She seems like a good neighbor," Robyn Doolen said. "We're all self-employed, so we all have something in common. We all like to work together and help each other out."
Whitten hopes to open the new Health Hub the Thursday before Memorial Day. The likely closing date will be sometime after Thanksgiving.
"We'll see how things go," she said. "At least for the first year, I think I'm going to have to shut down for the winter."