At Home in the Adirondacks 2017
Pine Cone Mercantile
Schroon Lake's charming boutique and bakery
by Jennifer Dorr
On Main Street in Schroon Lake, across from the bank and several storefronts down from a shop that sells both night crawlers and pet rabbits, you’ll find Pine Cone Mercantile, a boutique that is sophisticated, rustic and unlike anyplace else. A rainbow of indestructible Adirondack chairs made of recycled plastic line the outside of the store. This is the only plastic you’ll find at Pine Cone Mercantile, as its proprietor, Lisa Marks, is passionate about showcasing handcrafted, high-quality design items that use natural materials to evoke the wild beauty of the Adirondacks.
“I want to be a part of the renaissance of small-town America,” says Marks. “Millennials don’t want to shop in big-box stores. They want products that mean something and a store that is a true experience. This is the movement I want to be a part of.”
Walking into Pine Cone Mercantile feels like entering a warm embrace. The post-and-beam interior evokes a farmhouse, and a gorgeously set table beckons. In summer, there are bouquets of seasonal flowers arranged by Mad Crazy Flowers at Juniper Hill Farm, in Wadhams. The scent of bread wafts from the back of the shop, where Edward, Lisa’s husband, runs North Woods Bread Co. Music from the ’20s and ’30s plays softly. A wall of whimsical felt mounts by Fiona Walker, a nod to iconic Adirondack moose and deer heads, reminds customers that design should have a sense of humor. The vibe is woodsy, modern and chic without a hint of snobbery. It’s no wonder customers find themselves settling into cozy upholstered chairs to drink coffee from the bakery and chat with Lisa. In summer, locals, seasonal residents and tourists come through the door all day and find themselves lingering. October to June, a knitting circle holds its meetings here.
Lisa wears bright red lipstick, a chunky necklace and a military-style jacket as she talks with her customers. The personalized advice and design sense she gives them might be one reason Pine Cone Mercantile isn’t just surviving, but growing, as it enters its third year. Emily Rossi-Snook, who splits her life between a home just north of Schroon Lake and a residence in Nassau, New York, recounts the time Lisa drove the floor sample of an upholstered gray chair two hours to her home, just to see if the color and proportions looked right, then drove the sample back to the store and ordered a fresh one for her. “The attention you get,” says Rossi-Snook, “you can’t find it anywhere else.”
The store’s merchandise reveals the Markses’ commitment to supporting and promoting the work of artisans and artisanal food-makers, especially those based in the Adirondacks. On the walls of Pine Cone Mercantile are eye-catching shadow boxes of framed fishing flies, made by Nick Orsini, from Glens Falls. Lisa clipped black-and-white photographs of birds’ nests and feathers—printed on Nepalese paper by California artist Roy Barloga—onto barn-wood frames, which she commissioned from Schroon Lake artist Al Massa. His birdhouses are also sold in the store. On the shelves are a variety of flavors of cocktail shrubs from Forever Wild Beverage Co., based in Lake Placid, and an array of treats from Saratoga Chocolate Co.
Lisa seeks out new craftsmen at events like Adirondack Experience’s Rustic Furniture Fair, in Blue Mountain Lake, and occasionally, she buys items from artisans who swing by the store to sell their own creations.
The popularity of Pine Cone Mercantile is the hard-won product of her resourcefulness and commitment to the Adirondack community. When she and Edward moved from New York City in 2015, “People thought we were crazy,” she says. In the city, Lisa worked as an executive and fashion designer for brands that include L. L. Bean, The Gap and Aeropostale. Edward was an antiques dealer. For years they owned a second home in Maine, but Lisa, who grew up in Wisconsin and loves to snowboard, longed for access to lakes and mountains. Both wanted a second home within a four-hour drive of New York City. They put a map on the floor, drew a circle, and homed in on the Schroon, Loon and Brant Lakes area. They bought a house in Adirondack in 2010 as a weekend home, but the natural beauty of this region slowly seduced them. They relocated to the community full-time in 2014, “without a clear plan,” says Lisa.
At first they thought they might open a general store, but Schroon Lake already had a good one. It took them more than a year to pin down the exact idea and location of Pine Cone Mercantile. When they found the former Morningstar Bistro building on Main Street/Route 9, the concept crystallized. “The building would allow us to do business under the same roof,” says Lisa. “Edward would have the back and I would have the front. Plus, it was a perfect walking street with a view of the waterfront.”
They bought the building and immediately ripped out drop ceilings and peg-board walls to reveal old beams. They left the kitchen in place, adding the proof box, a temperature and humidity controlled chamber that allows Edward to manipulate the rate at which his bread rises, the reason his breads are known not only for their flavors, but also their textures.
Lisa, who studied pastry-making at the Institute of Culinary Education, in New York City, taught Edward how to bake. He’s since fine-tuned his abilities, becoming the virtuosic baker of the family. He’s careful to balance his bakery’s menu of simple pleasers, like Parmesan bread, with more adventurous delicacies such as black pepper and fig bread or squash toasting-bread. He bakes gluten-free crackers made of rosemary, Parmesan and flaxseeds. The antique rotary phone on the bakery wall constantly rings with customers requesting their favorite breads.
According to the Markses, the future of their business lies in deepening their connections to local farms and expanding their artisanal food offerings. North Woods Bread Co. is a weekly CSA drop-off for Mace Chasm Farm, of Keeseville, which delivers meat and eggs through the store to its Schroon-area customers. In the bakery there’s a cheese case with selections from Sugar House Creamery, in Upper Jay; North Country Creamery, in Keeseville; and Asgaard Farm, in Au Sable Forks. There’s more to come, says Lisa, but “it’s important to pace yourself, scale the business one step at a time.”
The Markses hope that Pine Cone Mercantile, with the other businesses in the area—Paradox Brewery, Sticks & Stones Bistro, and Vine & Barley (where you can get crepes like the ones once sold at Morningstar Bistro)—will draw more visitors to Schroon. “We want the store to be a regional destination,” says Lisa. “When you offer good quality, people seek you out. People who live in the Adirondacks will drive hours for what they need or what they love.”
Visit Pine Cone Mercantile (518-532-0220) and North Woods Bread Co. at 1079 Main Street, in Schroon Lake, or see their Facebook pages—Lisa posts photos of new merchandise; Edward posts his daily menu.