By Alicia Dziak

There’s a new store in town, ready to open its doors just in time for the holiday season! The Bear Paw Shoppe will feature some great items customers might recognize from nearby Allegany State Park, and that’s because the new store will be owned and operated by John Marino of J-Con Parks, the concessionaire for the park.

Every year, thousands of visitors flock to Allegany State Park to enjoy thousands of acres of natural beauty and outdoor adventure. And regular park-goers know that what’s a trip to the park without a stop or two at one of the stores? J-Con Parks operates the retail space within the park, including the gift shops and general stores on both the Red House and Quaker sides.

After growing up with parents who ran a state park and ski shops in the eastern part of the state, Marino came to ASP in 1994, and has continued to grow his business there ever since.

While the ASP shops enjoy plenty of traffic during peak season, employing about 70 people, this time of year, only the Red House Gift Shop remains open.

“As my season winds down at the park, I have a handful of senior staff who I wanted to keep busy,” explained Marino, who said that was a driving force in opening his new Ellicottville store.

Marino, who lives in Ellicottville, noted that as the park stores have continued to grow each year (with 2017 being the best yet), he’d been thinking of opening a store in Ellicottville for a couple years now, but was waiting for the right opportunity to come up. That opportunity presented itself last month, when the former Realty USA office in the Washington Square plaza came up for lease. “It’s a great spot and was move-in ready,” Marino said.

He quickly signed a two-year lease, added a fresh coat of paint, and began filling the 600-sq.-ft. space with a variety of gift items, such as T-shirts, picture frames, mugs, jewelry and seasonal items. “We’ll be able to move stuff back and forth between here and the park,” said Marino, who is also looking forward to promoting the park from his Ellicottville location.

The name for the store is a take on the Bear Paw Fudge and Bear Paw Mining Company that are currently featured at ASP (in the Quaker General Store and Red House general Store, respectively). Marino thinks the outdoorsy name and feel of the store are a natural fit for Ellicottville, as well as the “camping feel” of the decor, from the canoe display cases to the gemstones. The Bear Paw Shoppe will offer many of the same items offered at the park stores, but “with a splash of Ellicottville.” (Yes, their famous fudge will be sold in Ellicottville!)

“We’re excited about this,” Marino said. “Ellicottville has an awesome vibe, and coming from a skiing background, we figured it was worth a shot.”

Need some last minute holiday gifts? Stop by and check out the all-new gift shop starting on Dec. 15. The Bear Paw Shoppe is located at 38 Washington Street #3 between Subway and Dom’s Butcher Block. They will be open 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on weekdays and 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. on weekends through the winter months, with modified hours come spring. For more info, find them on Facebook.