By Mark Frost, Chronicle Editor
Dane Morton, 35, has built a thriving business, Adirondack Adventure Center on Route 9N in Lake Luzerne. Now he’s bought the mainstay business directly across Old Stage Road, Harris Grocery. He says it will provide him 162 more parking spaces — and also bring his family full-circle. His great-grandfather Frank Gardner operated the IGA that is now Luzerne Market in downtown Lake Luzerne.
“My family is all food service and grocery,” Mr. Morton said. His grandfather Fred “Papa” Gardner long operated Papa’s Ice Cream, now UpRiver Cafe, in Luzerne.
Mr. Morton’s aunt, Janine, daughter of Fred Gardner, will manage the grocery and do “a lot of the baking.”
She was “prep cook and manager” at Papa’s, Mr. Morton said.
“We’re gonna be doing breakfasts and some specialty sandwiches.”
Harris Grocery is closed now as extensive changes are made, including purchase of “commercial kitchen stuff — a six-burner stove with two convection ovens underneath it,” plus refrigeration units “and a grill, in case we want to do hamburgers.”
Mr. Morton said, “We’re shooting for March” to reopen the grocery, which has long been a year-round business.
He said the adventure course reopens “in mid to late April depending on when all the snow is gone and the water activities Memorial Day weekend.”
“I started the tubing business when I was 23, so I’ve been learning on the fly,” says Mr. Morton. “It kind of grew astronomically. Over 30,000 people visited us this past summer….
“In 2017 I purchased a piece of property next to mine for a tree-top and zipline ropes course.” It also enabled him to add about 80 parking spaces.
Parking has been an issue, especially as the business kept growing with addition last year of rafting on the nearby Sacandaga River.
Land behind Harris Grocery will enable him to add “162 parking spaces, which should get all the cars off the road.” He acknowledges that should please neighbors.
Harris Grocery was founded in 1962 by Loren and Alice Harris. It was operated for 39 years by them and by Mrs. Harris individually after her husband’s death.
She personally recruited “Jungle” Jim Mosher and his wife Becky to buy the store and continue it.
It’s situated across Route 9N from the state’s Fourth Lake Campground.
“Jungle” said campers have long wanted breakfast sandwiches at the grocery but that he and Becky initially didn’t want to undermine business for the Knotty Pine restaurant which then operated nearby.
More recently, the Moshers didn’t want to make the major investment in expanding the kitchen commercially, but he touted the opportunity as great to prospective buyers.
Mr. Morton said that while Covid has been horrible for many businesses and made his more complicated, “it’s driving a lot of people outdoors, outside the box” and led to a banner season for him. He’s hoping a lot of people will want to stay outside.
When Alice died in 2007 at age 97, she left $1-million for scholarships for Hadley-Luzerne Central School graduates attending college. She also left 107 acres for a hiking and nature preserve now achieved on Potash Mountain up the hill from the store.
Mr. Mosher and Steve Mackey, whose family has operated the Luzerne Market since 1980, did much of the work fulfilling Mrs. Harris’s Potash Mountain plan.
The Moshers plan to build a home up the hill from Harris Grocery, along the road that leads to the Potash Mountain trail.
Mr. Morton says, “I’m really looking forward to the family aspect of the grocery store. I’m aware of the fact” that his Adirondack Adventure business “is geared more to tourists,” whereas the grocery serves many locals, especially in the off season.
“It will be almost like my outreach to the community,” he said.
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