The Village Mercantile
In 2002, when retailer Ames shuttered their doors forever, the residents of the ADK village of Saranac Lake felt the void. Locals and visitors could find a great cup of coffee, bowl a few games on a Friday night and choose between Italian and Chinese for dinner. However, if anyone wanted to buy a pair of socks, it was best to request the day off from work. The nearest big box retailer and shopping mall is in Plattsburgh, NY. An hour’s drive in perfect conditions. But if you’ve ever studied an upstate New York weather map, you’ll know that ‘perfect’ is about as likely as hitting Power Ball twice in one year. After all, Saranac Lake is often the coldest spot in the continental United States.
The village is located just 9 miles west of tourist mecca Lake Placid; but it exists as an independent community with more than twice as many residents than its more renowned neighbor.
When Wal-Mart asked to come into town with a 250,000 square foot super center, you would think the residents would welcome the big box with a parade float and ice castle, two of the many things the village is known for in the winter months. You’d be wrong.
The locals collectively said, “No thanks. We’ve got this.”
The villagers formed a committee that sold shares of a new cooperative for $100 apiece. The new store would be owned entirely by the community. After raising $500,000, a downtown department store would finally become a reality. It would be a place where people could buy specialty foods, local art, clothing, bedding, kitchen goods and of course, socks.
The Community Store opened on October 29, 2011.
And Barkeater Chocolates was proud to be there on opening day.
Nina, Digital Specialist, has worked at The Community Store since she was in high school. She said, “As long as I remember, we’ve always carried Barkeater Chocolates.” After ringing out a customer buying a coffee grinder, she added, “The [Downhill Darksider] sea salt bar is the most popular Barkeater product.” Nina, now a college graduate, is one of three full time employees that include Buyer, Terry Reed and Clerk, Mary Ray. Despite the titles, Nina said, “Everyone does a little bit of everything here.”
In 2018, The Community Store board of directors voted to rebrand the store, changing their name to The Village Mercantile. Nina explained that visitors to the region often had a misconception of what a ‘community store’ was. To many, it sounded like it was a thrift shop.
The rebranding effort included a new e-commerce website to boost sales of Adirondack made specialties. The site launched on December 15, 2018.
“I love the Citrus Surprise,” Nina told another customer, convincing her to take a chance on the orange infused chocolate bar.
The Village Mercantile is open year-round and is a great source for many necessities at affordable prices. And yes, we consider chocolate a necessity.