Customers had questions about the soft leather moccasins on display in the back of the Indian Tepee Gift Store in Bolton Landing.
Clerk Sandy Bashant had answers.
“Do you have anything in an 81⁄2 or a 9?” asked Barbara Cardwell of Niskayuna, who was browsing the rustic store with her husband, Gary.
“I have both,” answered Bashant, who pulled boxes from the store’s stock of Minnetonka foot products at 3:30 p.m.
Both boxes contained dark brown moccasins with light tan laces. Gary Cardwell decided to try on the smaller pair first, and Sandy and Barbara chatted while Gary laced up the leathers. One customer, Bashant remembered, recently visited the area and asked whether a return would be possible during his next annual visit.
“I said, ‘Yes, if you don’t wear them and bring back the receipt,’ ” Bashant said.
For Gary, the 8 1⁄2s seemed a little tight — but not uncomfortably so.
“They’re going to give a little bit, too,” Bashant said.
“We’re going to try the 9s,” Barbara said.
“I’ll try them, but these are probably OK,” Gary said.
Gary dressed to the 9s, and walked a few steps in the Tepee’s shoes. “Do you like the smaller ones?” Barbara asked. “I know you hate shopping.”
A trip north
The Cardwells had taken advantage of the cool, occasionally warm early autumn weather to drive north into the mountains. “Just taking a couple days off,” Barbara said.
People seemed to like shopping, even Gary, in the Adirondack gift store on Lake Shore Drive — also known as Route 9N. While summer swimmers and sand fans have left Lake George, and many boaters have turned off their engines for the winter, tourists are still walking Bolton’s business district, and stopping into places like the Lakeside Lodge and Grille restaurant and the Serendipity boutique.
Some people have business at the Sagamore, Bolton’s mammoth hotel and convention center. Others, like the Cardwells, are just exploring.
Gary and Barbara decided on the smaller moccasins. Bashant put the selections back in the box and prepared to bring them to the store’s front counter. “They’ll be waiting for you when you’re finished shopping,” she said.
She walked past the Christmas evergreen displays — lit for December-minded shoppers — the Native American hiking sticks, the candles, the nostalgic candy shelf. The store, which first opened in 1960 and has been in its current location since 1970, smells like cinnamon and balsam. The wooden, wide plank floors are unfinished and clean.
“It’s kind of the nice time of the year,” Bashant said at 3:45, moving merchandise around the shelves near the front of the 4,000-square-foot store. “People have time to talk to you. You get their stories, find out where they’re from.”
Bashant wore a navy blue sweater over the store’s light blue denim shirt with “Indian Tepee” embroidered on the front side. She said business has been steady, even though the Adirondacks in early October are only offering light yellow, some brown and plenty of green in its autumn color pallet. “It’s another week for us up here,” said Edward Stewart, who owns the store. “We’re near the lake, and it’s warmer.”
Bashant kept moving small lamps and carved figurines around the shelves.
“This is my job, to make it look good,” she said. Months ago, kids were shopping for puzzles, toys and T-shirts and sweatshirts that displayed silk-screened allegiance to Lake George. Now, an older crowd is looking for Adirondack style signs — like the squirrel number that proclaims “Welcome to the Nut House” — and items such as locally made maple syrup and salsa. Autumn sale prices of 25 percent off for many items have attracted some of the browsers.
Bashant took another walk to the back of the store, which will close Dec. 31 and open for selected weekends during the winter months. At a few minutes after 4, she checked store items in a catalog and cashed out customers making small purchases. Another customer had decided to purchase a stained-glass style pedestal lamp; Bashant dusted off the top and prepared the four-foot tall light stand for packaging.
New customers entered the store every 10 or 15 minutes. Bashant has seen some of them before.
“People who have been brought here by their parents are bringing their kids now,” she said.
The new shoppers didn’t seem to need much help, so Bashant returned to her shelves. This time, she used a small stepladder to reach higher spots and moved a couple of brightly colored metal chickens.
“Want to buy one?” she asked. “Don’t laugh. We had a dozen of these and we only have two left.”