WRITTEN AND PHOTOGRAPHER BY GEORGE HANSTEIN

There are stores that we shop in because we need something and are forced to go. Then there are stores that we shop in because it is such a pleasant experience.

The residents of Lake Luzerne and the surrounding communities are lucky to have one of those stores. I am talking about "The Luzerne Market" in Lake Luzerne, NY. I have shopped in the market since moving to the area in 1991. The staff are always friendly, the prices always fair and the quality always high. 

I started wondering how, in today's world of giant markets and big box stores, a small, family-owned business manages to keep up and be successful. I decided to contact Jim Mackey, the owner and ask him.  He invited me to sit down and have a chat. Between Jim and his Uncle Steve, I learned much about this great little business and now, if you keep reading, you will too.

The store was originally opened by Frank Gardner in the '40s. The Gardners ran the store for a few years and then sold it to a man named Larry Breuer. He ran the store for only about four years. The store then sat empty and idle for several years. 

On Nov 13, 1980, The Mackey family came into the picture and began to create, what is now, "The Luzerne Market.”

The market was started by Jim's grandfather, father, and uncle. Jim's Uncle Steve, who has been there since the start, is still involved in the store, but is an avid environmentalist and spends most of his time with those pursuits.

One of the Mackey's first employees of the store was Colonel and he still works there to this day. He actually worked there before the Mackeys took the store over and as of this writing has worked there for 43 years. When I asked Jim about Colonel, he told me that he can't remember Colonel ever missing a day of work. When I asked Colonel if he had ever considered leaving, I got a simple but emphatic...no.

Jim told me that one of the things that surprised him about owning the store is how long employees stay.

Apparently, Jim and his family are good people to work for. There are a number of employees that have been there for over ten years. The people that I have met who work at The Luzerne Market always seem happy and anxious to please. That may account for the longevity of their tenure. The Luzerne Market employs about 14 people. In a tiny town like Lake Luzerne, that is not insignificant.

There are many things that make the Luzerne Market unique. Not the least of which is the customer service. If you need something that they don't carry, they will do their best to try to get it for you. 

Jim has recently made some changes to the store… adding a premium cheese section, sushi, Stromboli and a beer cave, with locally sourced craft beer. When I asked Jim about these changes, he told me that he was trying to add more products and services, but he was not interested in becoming a specialty grocery and would always keep value items.  They also have great subs, and freshly made chicken tenders. 

As you wander through the store you will find items that you won't find elsewhere… a varied private label spice section, high quality meats, all sorts of cheeses, breads, pies and a great deli department. 

The store is spotless and well kept.

It's so nice to see a small independent business that has been able to carve out a niche.

If you decide to stop in to shop, be sure to observe the mural on the wall near the parking lot. It was originally painted by the Hadley Luzerne high school students and their teacher Sher Mills.

When I was with Jim, one of the questions that I asked him was, "What makes The Luzerne Market unique?" His answer surprised me. He said that it is unique because it is still around and that most small markets are gone.

I know that I miss many of the small businesses that have closed in my area. The only way to keep these great businesses operating is to give them your business. If you stop into The Luzerne Market, I am sure you will be glad that you did. It is truly a unique place with a very warm atmosphere.

See you at The Luzerne Market... I hope.


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