Cherry Valley, New York
The shimmering 50-foot tall metal cone of the TePee is one of those sights that has signaled to uncounted millions: "That's right! You're on vacation!" Built in 1950 along New York State's US Route 20 (before the interstates bypassed it), the TePee offers "The Grand Panoramic View" of Cherry Valley, and a shoppe to buy cheesy Indian souvenirs.
The TePee is midway between Boston and Niagara Falls (Honeymoon Alert!), scant miles from local magnets such as Secret Caverns and Petrified Creatures. We've always admired the way the sun glinted off it's steel exterior, blinding passing motorists. In 1997 we noticed that it had undergone a horrid, peeling paint job -- spray-painted smog-yellow. It was open, but lacked visitors. A sign warned: "New owners! New inventory!"
The new owners blamed the funky makeover on the contractor, who apparently used the wrong paint in 1996 to cover galvanized steel. "It looked good for about a month," lamented the store manager. Inside, photos of the TePee from years past make you wish that the new owners had left it alone. They still sell an assortment of typical tourist items, including "Tepee Taffy."
The brochure scores some points, directing us to milestones in the area's history:
- "Waterville, seat of the hop market at its prime."
- "Nov. 11, 1770: Indians and Tories massacred the inhabitants of Cherry Valley."
- "At Sharon, the Indians scalped a boy who lived to be 70 years old."
Current TePee owner Dale Latella reports he "bought the business with my sister from our father in 2000. We now carry many authentic native items made from different Nations. Customers are pleasantly surprised that we have a nice gift shop, not overpowered by cheesy souvenir items. It sounds from your Web site that The Tepee is a tacky tourist trap -- we are far from that. Just updated for today's consumers, but still have the charm of the 1950s roadside gift shop."