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Irish tent company to set up in Saranac Lake

Lake Placid man first employee

May 9, 2016
By CHRIS KNIGHT - For the News ( , Lake Placid News

SARANAC LAKE - An Ireland-based tent-making company will make this village its North American headquarters, thanks in part to a $250,000 infusion from a nascent investment group here.

Crua Outdoors will set up its distribution center and run a small retail shop at Lake Flower Landing, a former taxidermy shop on Lake Flower Avenue that's been undergoing extensive renovations over the last two years.

The company and its location were introduced Thursday, May 5 at an event organized by Point Positive, a 15-member investment group coordinated by Melinda Little, better known for leading the effort to open the Saranac Lake Community Store.

Article Photos

Derek O’Sullivan, CEO of Crua Outdoors, talks about his tent-making company’s origins at an event May 5 inside the company’s soon-to-be North American headquarters on Lake Flower Avenue in Saranac Lake.
(News photo — Chris Knight)

Little said Point Positive is made up of investors from across the North Country "who really care deeply about the Adirondack region, putting their money behind start-ups and early-stage companies.

"The idea is to do that with companies that really have a reason and a purpose to be here in the Adirondacks," Little said. "We think with Crua Outdoors, we have a huge winner. It's not only a great company with a great product; I think it's going to be a really great resource for us."

Little connected with Crua Outdoors and its CEO, Derek O'Sullivan, through a trade show in New York City roughly a year ago. At the time, O'Sullivan said his company, which started in 2014, was looking to break into the North American market, particularly the U.S.

"We started looking at different options of bedding ourselves in here and having some partners, and we came through the Point Positive group," he said. "We started talking to them, and it kind of evolved from there. I suppose what we do is attractive to them because it lends to the outdoor environment and what this part of the world is known for."

Originally called Thermo Tent, the company changed its name earlier this year to Crua Outdoors. Crua is the Gaelic word for "tough," which the company says reflects its origins in Ireland, where it developed a line of tents designed to make camping more comfortable in the country's harsh conditions and glacial landscapes.

It's flagship product, the Crua Loj, uses a patented insulation design that the company says makes it the world's first thermally and acoustically insulated tent. It sleeps up to six people, has a large great room, porch and awning, and retails for $2,000. A three-person model, the Crua Tri, goes for $595, and the company plans to have a single-person tent, the Crua Hybrid, available in June for $300. It also sells a glamping (glamorous camping) tent called the Crua Great Lodge for $10,500.

O'Sullivan said Saranac Lake's location in the Adirondacks and its reputation as a hub for outdoor recreation made it the perfect place for his company to get off the ground in the U.S.

"A lot of what we'll be doing here is reaching out," he said. "We'll be supplying retailers. It will be a base for shipping stuff out. The retail end exists, of course, but we'll be using it as our base to target the whole U.S."

Crua Outdoors has hired one person so far, Derek Russell of Lake Placid, and expects to take on one or two more employees in the short term, O'Sullivan said.

"We're hoping to evolve from there," he said. "As we need people, we'll get people locally, and we'll be giving them good jobs. It's an exciting time, and hopefully we'll have many good years of business ahead."

The space Crua Outdoors will occupy, 421 Lake Flower Ave., is across the street from Baldwin Park and Lake Flower. Constructed in the 1920s, the building has had many uses over the years, including as a grocery store, gas station, deli and women's clothing store. In the 1980s and early '90s it was Lonesome Landing, the site of French Foster's garden center and yarn shop. More recently, it served as a taxidermy shop.

Peter Seward and Karen Davidson, who live in Lake Placid, bought the 4,000-square-foot, two-story building in 2013 and began gutting and restoring it. Their initial plan was to turn it into a cafe and art gallery they would run, but the couple ran into a few "speed bumps" and stopped work on the project for a time last year, Seward said.

Seward described the gallery and cafe idea as "more of an indulgence" and a lot of work for them, part of the reason why they opted instead for finding a tenant. At one point, they looked at making it the site of a Tim Horton's coffee and doughnut shop before they were connected with Crua Outdoors.

"It's a very good fit for the community," Seward said. "To have a unique business and something that has to do with our terrain and not to expand this franchise strip (on Lake Flower Avenue), I think is a victory."

Seward likened the time, effort and money he and Davidson have put into this project to other ongoing and extensive building renovations in Saranac Lake, like the Hotel Saranac on Main Street and Fiddlehead Bistro on Broadway.

"Hopefully it's a signal for other investment to come," he said.

Renovations to the space Crua Outdoors will occupy on the first floor aren't complete, but the end is in sight, Seward said, crediting his architect, Jesse Schwartzberg of Black Mountain Design, and contractor, Randy Schrader of Schrader General Contracting, for their work on the project. The second floor will eventually be an apartment where Seward and Davidson will live.



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