Mobile PA Wilds Conservation Shop at Leonard Harrison State Park now open
New online shopping experience also available at ShopThePAWilds.com
On Monday, June 7, the mobile unit of the PA Wilds Conservation Shop at Leonard Harrison State Park officially opened to the public, offering PA Wilds made and branded wares and apparel to park visitors and creating new market opportunities for local artists and producers. The shop will be open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Thursday through Monday, closed Tuesday and Wednesday.
A ribbon cutting ceremony was held recently to celebrate the opening of the shop. PA Wilds Conservation Shops at state parks are operated by the nonprofit PA Wilds Center for Entrepreneurship through a public-private partnership with the PA Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) as part of the long-standing regional collaborative to establish the PA Wilds as an outdoor recreation destination to support rural community revitalization. Members of the Center’s Board of Directors and staff attended along with DCNR staff from the region and Harrisburg.
Present for the ribbon cutting at the PA Wilds Conservation Shop mobile unit at Leonard Harrison State Park were, from left: Beth Pellegrino, PA Wilds Center board member; Julie Iaquinto, PA Wilds Center EVP of Finance; Kate Brock, PA Wilds Center board chair; Ta Enos, PA Wilds Center Founder + CEO; Meredith Hill, DCNR PA Wilds / Conservation Landscapes Program Director (in back); Ben Stone, DCNR Hills Creek Park Complex Manager; Abbi Peters, PA Wilds Center EVP of Operations; Katie deSilva, PA Wilds Planning Team Vice Chair (in back); Morgan Hilliard, PA Wilds Conservation Shop at Leonard Harrison State Park Manager; Libby Bloomquist, PA Wilds Conservation Shop at Kinzua Bridge State Park Manager; and Jason Fink, PA Wilds Center board member.
“We are so incredibly excited to be opening the PA Wilds Conservation Shop at Leonard Harrison State Park and to be able to offer visitors more locally-made products that reflect our region and all its beauty,” said Abbi Peters, EVP of Operations at the PA Wilds Center and co-founder of the nonprofit’s PA Wilds Conservation Shop network. “We opened our pilot Conservation Shop at Kinzua Bridge State Park in 2016 and can attest to the demand for PA Wilds made and branded products with more than $1M in gross sales of local products to date. This equates to more than $500,000 invested in local businesses to inventory that space, and we hope to see similar results here at Leonard Harrison as the shop adds to the park experience and helps sustain creative industry jobs across our rural landscape. Special thanks to DCNR for the partnership that makes these shops a reality.”
Peters noted that some products will vary in the shops, as they are designed to reflect the local park and surrounding area. For example, many products at Kinzua Bridge celebrate the train heritage and the Skywalk. The items at Leonard Harrison will reflect the Pine Creek Valley and PA Grand Canyon landscape of the PA Wilds, including walking stick medallions featuring Barbour Rock vista and quirky shirts featuring bears in canoes to celebrate paddling on the Pine Creek and popular local wildlife. More than 15 regional artisans will be represented.
In May, PA Wilds Center hired Morgan Hilliard as the manager for the Conservation Shop at Leonard Harrison. Hilliard comes to Tioga County with a background in fashion, marketing and branding, and outdoor advocacy.
“It’s exciting to open the new shop and be able to showcase local artisans’ work,” Hilliard said. “I’m looking forward to meeting the people that come to the park and to learn more about their experience here. I’m also eager to spread knowledge about the PA Wilds mission, local conservation efforts, why our area is so special and what others can do to both experience it and keep it that way.”
PA Wilds Center is still accepting applications for part-time positions at the new location. (View job opportunities at pawildscenter.org/careers.)
The mobile store will be in place for 2021 and likely 2022 as DCNR completes major renovations at the park’s visitor center and traffic flow improvements. A transition to a full brick-and-mortar store will take place once construction is completed.
“We’re excited to partner with PA Wilds Center in this new venture and look forward to growing this relationship,” said Ben Stone, park manager at DCNR’s Hills Creek State Park Complex, which includes Leonard Harrison. “Conservation Shop staff will assist in providing first contact visitor services at the park, helping us complete our mission and serve the public by answering questions and providing important information about the park and the PA Wilds region.”
Conservation Shop staff also operate a charity checkout campaign to support state park and forest improvements in the PA Wilds. The charity checkout campaign, operated in partnership with the PA Parks and Forests Foundation, has raised more than $20,000 to date for reinvestment back in state parks and forests in the PA Wilds. In addition, shop staff are trained to help orient visitors to the larger PA Wilds region and connect them to other nearby experiences and trip planning resources like local visitor bureaus.
“Visit Potter-Tioga is pleased to welcome the PA Wilds mobile unit gift shop to our area,” said Visit Potter-Tioga executive director, Colleen Hanson. “We are excited to continue our partnership and wish the PA Wilds Center much success with this project!”
The PA Wilds Center’s physical and online stores focus on selling locally-made and value-added products that are PA Wilds branded or inspired, allowing visitors to “take home a piece of the PA Wilds” while positively impacting the region’s economy. The primary product line is sourced from The Wilds Cooperative of Pennsylvania, a network of more than 380 local place-based businesses and organizations from across the PA Wilds that is free to join.
More than 30 businesses in Tioga County are currently in the Wilds Cooperative and three sell products at the Conservation Shop at Kinzua Bridge State Park.
SHOP THE PA WILDS ONLINE
PA Wilds Center also recently soft launched the new PA Wilds Marketplace online. ShopThePAWilds.com will allow rural makers and businesses to sell directly to customers through the platform alongside the Conservation Shops and with the added marketing power of the regional PA Wilds brand.
Ten artisan businesses from the Wilds Cooperative are showcased on the Marketplace so far, featuring products ranging from body care items to apparel, glass art and hand-built pottery to books and fine art. Participating businesses include: Blackberry and Sage Market, Conklin Studio Pottery, Cottage Glassworks, Ellen Paquette Art, Nonni and Papa Joe’s Homestead, Owl and Moon Creative, PA Made, PJ Piccirillo, Rich Valley Apiary, and Stephanie Distler Artisan Jewelry.
PA Wilds Center looks to invite additional sellers from the Wilds Cooperative beginning this summer, and marketing of the site will begin in earnest in 2022. Artisans and producers interested in selling on the PA Wilds Marketplace, or at PA Wilds Conservation Shops, are encouraged to join the Wilds Cooperative at WildsCoPa.org.
The commerce platform is part of a larger entrepreneurial ecosystem the Center operates to support rural entrepreneurs and community revitalization efforts in the PA Wilds, a 13-county region that is working to recover from decades of population decline and divestment. The ecosystem is rooted in the PA Wilds Conservation Landscape, a 17-year effort to grow the region’s nature tourism industry as a way to create jobs, diversify economies, inspire stewardship and improve quality of life. Local, state and federal partners from the public and private sectors are involved in the regional strategy.
ABOUT THE PA WILDS
The Pennsylvania Wilds is a 13-county region that includes the counties of Cameron, Clarion, Clearfield, Clinton, Elk, Forest, Jefferson, Lycoming, McKean, Potter, Tioga, Warren, and northern Centre. The PA Wilds Center for Entrepreneurship, Inc., is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization whose mission is to integrate conservation and economic development in a way that inspires the communities of the Pennsylvania Wilds. The PA Wilds Center promotes the region as a premier outdoor recreation destination as a way to create jobs, diversify local economies, inspire stewardship and improve quality of life. The PA Wilds Center’s core programs seek to help businesses leverage the PA Wilds brand and connect with new market opportunities, including: the Wilds Cooperative of PA (WCO), a network of over 380 place-based businesses and organizations; and the PA Wilds Conservation Shop, retail outlets primarily featuring rural products sourced from the WCO. For more information on the PA Wilds Center, visit www.PAWildsCenter.org. To learn more about the WCO, visit www.WildsCoPA.org. Explore the PA Wilds at www.pawilds.com. Find PA Wilds made and inspired wares and gifts at www.ShopThePAWilds.com.