Diamond Point Couple Making a New Life with a New adirondack Business
People come to the Adirondacks for the woods, the waters, the mountains. Some have come for their health, others to make their fortunes. And some for the chance to re-invent themselves.
Mark and Jennifer Matteo may have moved to Diamond Point for some or all those reasons. They were certainly looking for a second chance. During the last recession, they lost their businesses, their Adirondack camp and even their home.
They were the creators of Simply Certificates, a Capital District company selling gift certificates redeemable in 32 cities in 11 states. They sold that company before it began to fail under new owners, and became equally well-known in the Albany area for bringing franchises such as Quizno’s Sub and Nothing but Noodles to the region.
And then, as Mark says, “We lost everything.”
With their new business, Adirondack Safari, they may well have found their second chance.
Put simply, Adirondack Safari is a business that will erect a luxury tent for you anywhere from an island in the Narrows to the Adirondack backcountry. And that’s just the start.
Whether it’s a private chef or a masseuse, gourmet provisions or vintage Bordeaux, fishing trips or rock climbs, they’ll find a way to provide it.
“Tell us your goal, we’ll put it together; the answer is always ‘yes,’ said Mark.
“If you can envision it, we’ll make it happen,” says Jennifer.
Their first customer was a young man who wanted to propose marriage to his girlfriend. The couple had planned to camp on one of the islands over Memorial Day weekend. When the young man heard about Adirondack Safari, he decided to forego roughing it and chose luxury. Reader, it did the trick. She accepted.
Since then, the Matteo’s phones, email inboxes, web site and social media pages have been jammed with traffic.
“Even though Mark has been thinking about this for a couple of years, and we’ve been planning the business for a while, we’re stunned by the response,” says Jennifer.
“We’d been following the glamping trend as it worked its way east, so something like this was on our radar,” Mark explains. “We also knew that the African Safari trade had all but disappeared because of Ebola. So we asked ourselves, ‘what if we brought something new to the Adirondack hospitality business?’ And we thought, maybe, we can do something even more than just start a small business. Maybe we can help create a new industry.”
While luxurious compared to a portable tent and a sleeping bag, Adirondack Safari’s platform tents and furnishings provide a relatively inexpensive experience, making a vacation affordable to working families, for whom the cost of hotels may be excessive, the Matteos emphasize.
“We’re trying to open up the market to a different demographic,” says Mark. “We have millions of acres in the Adirondack protected for public use. Why not take advantage of it? We can serve people who wouldn’t ordinarily come to the Adirondacks, who wouldn’t know where to go or how to secure a good campsite. We’ll go in, set up the site, and take you there,” says Mark.
He says they’ve already established a good working relationship with the Department of Environmental Conservation, which sees their product as something that can make an Adirondack camping experience more appealing to the average citizen.
Jennifer adds that the requests they’ve received have educated her about the range of the tents’ uses.
“They can be used to create extra rooms at a lake house over a busy weekend. We’ve also been asked to provide housing for a wedding; the tents will be set up in a semi-circle, around a campfire,” she said.
Describing herself as an unrepentant history major, Jennifer says part of the appeal of the business for her is its Victorian antecedents.
“During the Great Camp era, platform tents were part of the accommodations. We like to think we’re bringing back something of that era,” she said.
And, as people who visited Lake George fifty years ago, or who grew up here, remember, outfitters like the Lambs and the Conertys provided the same kinds of services that the Matteos offer. They’d set up your campsite on an island, make certain you had everything you would need, deliver you there in their boats and bring you back to shore.
Doing the same thing at 5:30 one recent morning, Mark said, “I can’t think of a better job. We’re following our dream.”