Great White North

By:Spider Rybaak

Oneida Lake has a huge impact over Central New York. It’s so big, it creates its own weather; cooling temperatures along its shoreline a skosh during summer, warming them slightly in spring and fall, even creating early lake effect snows up until winter seals it in ice. Its influence is so pronounced, locals consider anything above it as “up north.”

That’s where you’ll find the Great White North Trading Post (315-964-2669), one of the most unique shops in Oswego County.

While it’s billed as a trading post, don’t go expecting to find items like rock candy, bags of salt or jars of pickled pork on its sagging shelves. Those days are gone.

What you’ll find is guns and ammo, fishing and trapping supplies, all set amidst museum-quality mounts of North American game animals.

Located in Williamstown, in the old Masonic Lodge, the shop looks like something straight out of a Civil War-era photograph. In fact, owner Les Huntley boasts “The place hasn’t seen a phone in over 100 years; until I bought it.”

When you think about this corner of Oswego County, you usually have fishing and hunting in mind, ancient pursuits dating to the dawn of time. You could even say hunters and anglers are natural reenactors; the clothes have changed but the game is the same. As such, many are drawn to all things old.

This unusual shop fits that bill. What’s more, its location on the edge of the Tug Hill Plateau exudes history, from the woods and fields surrounding Williamstown, to its priceless collection of old architecture.

A conservationist at heart, Huntley’s deep respect for history spurred him to preserve the building as a window into the area’s proud past. Indeed, as you walk through the entrance’s narrow double doors, you’re greeted with aging wallpaper and antique woodwork leading into a showroom whose very windows have wizened with time, growing capable of softening the brightest sunlight on a clear blue day.

Oh sure, the place has modern frills like electric lights, a computer, even a red, neon OPEN sign hanging in the window. Nothing flashy, just the practical kind of stuff you’d expect to find in a retail shop.

But that’s where the similarities to the franchise stores endlessly springing up out of the commercial landscape ends. You see, the Great White North Trading Post prides itself in traditional values and common sense, American ideals you just don’t find too much anymore.

Run by Les and his wife Kim, the place doesn’t carry all the latest fads, only outdoor necessities at a fair price. Advice on local conditions is available free on request.

That might sound strange and quaint to some; but that’s just the way things are up north.

Kim Huntley issuing me a new fishing license.
Great White North’s resident bear and racoon.
Hunting rifles and walking canes.