MORRIS — Nessmuk’s Sporting Goods is a combination of old-world and high tech under one roof.
Owners Zack Buck and Bill Bennett initially partnered to open Blak Forge Armoury, a gunsmithing business. Originally, they hoped to open a full supporting goods store, but that was postponed.
They purchased the building along State Route 287 in Morris three years ago, with plans to expand it into a retail area. Last year with the coronavirus shutdown, they restructured. The gunsmithing operation was relocated and renovations to the retail space completed.
Inside, they’ve worked to create a space that features products made by small businesses, in Pennsylvania or “stuff that Bill and Zack like.”
“We’re proudly Pennsylvania made and proudly Pennsylvania owned,” said Buck. “We try to have stuff that you don’t get on Amazon or at Walmart. We try to support other small businesses as much as we can and are filling the store with things we like to own and use.”
It’s a combination of high tech and traditional, reflecting the interests and intent of the owners. Bennett and Buck met more than 20 years ago in Boy Scouts. They became re-acquainted when Buck met his wife, whose family is close with Bennett’s.
When Buck returned from an overseas deployment with the Army National Guard, he began renovations to the 1870s-era former Knights of the Maccabees hall which now houses the store. The building has seen many incantations over the years: residential, general grocery store and, as Buck learned during an Old Home Days parade, an antique furniture store.
George Washington Sears, who used the pen name Nessmuk, inspired Buck after he found and read a copy of “Woodcraft” as a child. He enjoyed reading about Nessmuk’s adventures and recreated them as a child.
It was years before he realized Nessmuk was a local and the store that now bears his name is located a few miles downstream from Nessmuk’s winter camp.
“He was a grandfather of the idea of being outside for recreation rather than occupation,” Buck said. “Some of his concepts — the idea of ultra light hiking — he was working toward that goal a century or more before his time.”
Those concepts are captured in the variety of traditional and modern, lightweight goods in the store. Traditional, heirloom quality sporting goods include the Frost River line of waxed canvas bags with brass fittings, including a reproduction of Nessmuk’s pack design; the Buck and Old Hickory knives, Zippo lighters, powder horns, bedrolls and the lashed wood shelter which displays traps, snowshoes and — naturally — reprints of Nessmuk’s books.
The more modern approach is represented by the Kupilka cups, with spoon attached, made in Finland of of pine fiber and polymer; the lightweight fishing rods; and even jewelry. They’ve worked with a local roaster to develop a Nessmuk line of coffee, and Buck’s daughter Gwen has filled a rack with her goodies: homemade jam, jelly, maple syrup products and coin-operated candy machines in glass globes.
Nessmuk’s Sporting Goods will hold an open house from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday, April 17. Some craftsmen will demonstrate their work including a powder horn maker, game call maker, fly tying and more. There will also be hot dogs, discounts and door prizes.