Search for a Family Getaway Leads Couple to Cook Forest Business
Owners Paula and Andy Pluta purchased Hominy Ridge Lodge and Cabins 14 years ago after a search for a cabin to vacation in took them in a totally new direction.
The Plutas came to the area from Somerset County, Pa., and had vacationed in the Cook Forest area for a number of years.
“We were originally looking for a cabin to buy to have as a family getaway, and we found one, but they wouldn’t sell,” Paula Pluta told exploreClarion.com.
Their search through all of the properties for sale in the area then began to take them in an entirely different direction, and they began considering a permanent move to Cook Forest if they could find something that would combine a business and a living space.
“We wanted to buy another place, but it was just a store, with no place to live. Then, this place had a place for us to live and it was turnkey. Even though it needed a lot of work, there were still reservations on the books, so we bought this instead of buying a cabin to go on vacation to.
“Now, we don’t get vacations much unless we leave,” she noted.
After their initial investment of purchasing the property, they started making changes almost immediately.
“The Lodge – we pretty much closed down and turned into our private residence, though we do still have one rental downstairs.”
They also began investing into the cabins on the property, doing renovations in every cabin, and adding two new cabins.
One of the new cabins, cabin six, was built after a fire destroyed one of the older cabins in 2007.
“The newer cabin is back off the driveway more, so it’s more private,” Pluta noted.
The second of the new cabins is cabin one, which was very specially designed to be completely ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) compliant.
“As far as I know, though I’m not sure, I think we’re the only completely ADA compliant cabin in Cook Forest. There are some other places that have renovated cabins, but I don’t know if they’ve made any of them fully ADA compliant.”
According to Pluta, the cabin offers a great opportunity for individuals with disabilities to enjoy the beauty of Cook Forest in comfort.
“We’ve had a lot of people in wheelchairs in it so far, and it works out really well for them.”
Another item that offers some extra comfort to guests at Hominy Ridge is their hot tub, which is a little different than many others in the area.
Rather than being situated on a porch area, as many hot tubs at cabins are, the hot tub at Hominy Ridge has its own stand-alone structure, set out into the trees, offering a beautiful undisturbed view.
“It may not be quite as convenient, but it’s a lot neater. You can watch deer walk by while sitting in the hot tub.”
The structure has two heated dressing rooms attached, for convenience and privacy for changing, and is covered on three sides, while leaving one side partially open to vent the steam from the hot tub.
Along with the renovations on the cabins, they’ve also been making improvements to the grounds, adding gardens to the property.
Another addition to the business was the Hominy Ridge Gift Shop, which they developed in another part of the former Lodge building. The former Lodge originally had a few souvenirs by the front desk, but the Plutas decided they wanted something more.
“I have a little bit of everything in here,” Pluta said.
The description seems apt for a place some people have referred to as a “mini Walmart” stocked with everything from necessities like deodorant and other toiletries to food staples, as well as fishing gear, decoratives, and an entire range of Cook Forest souvenirs.
“It’s mostly what people need, like toothbrushes and stuff like that, but the thing is, people also need that special souvenir from Cook Forest,” Pluta noted.
“It goes from the groceries where there’s bread and milk and eggs to things that are unnecessary, like the Blue Bunny ice cream and the Keurig coffees. We also have the live baits and live minnows, which is a pretty big thing for fishing. For the most part, we carry just about everything that people need.”
They also carry a range of Rada Knives and cutlery, which are all made in the USA and carry a lifetime guarantee.
“Those are a big thing, That’s a big draw for some people, and my supply keeps getting bigger and bigger,” Pluta said.
A new addition to the store that Pluta is currently working on is Zippo Lighters. After a recent trip to the Zippo Museum in Bradford, Pluta decided the lighters would make a good addition to their stock.
“No one else carries them in the area.”
The Zippo Lighters aren’t the only upcoming addition to the business, as Pluta noted there are other updates currently in the works.
“We’re thinking about adding onto the building to make the store about twice this size, but we also have some things that we’re looking into that we’d like to purchase, so we’re looking for some growth, we just haven’t decided where we want to put that money.”
“We do plan on expanding one way or another because we think we’re ready for that, and it’s time to start investing the money back into the place and expanding, whether it be more cabins, which is one option, or another gift shop, which is another option. We’re just trying to figure out what the best option is for us.”
Whatever the future may offer, one thing is for certain: they want to continue to expand and grow the business that has also become their home.
“It’s a great business to meet new people and just a great business to be in. It’s an easier lifestyle, but a lot of work.”
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