October 8, 2012
We’re about as far from the mall as you can get.
You don’t have to be an outdoorsy person to shop at Alice’s Wonderland, but you do have to travel through a good deal of rural Pennsylvania countryside to get there. And when you’ve gone far enough to think you’ve gone too far, keep driving. You’re almost there.
You see, when you look at it the way the Karpiak family does (these are the fine folks who’ve run Alice’s for four generations now), you have to ask yourself: Where else would you put an outdoor store? In town?
The Karpiaks have a keen sense for what (and where) their store should be. Take Grandpa Paul, for example. When he bought the place in 1940 and named it after his wife, Alice, it was a restaurant. But because farm families didn’t tend to dine out all that often—and they did ask Paul to pick up a shirt or two when he went into the city for supplies—he decided to shift the focus of the family business to clothes and other outdoor gear.
“If it didn’t have a purpose, it went away,” said PJ Karpiak, Paul’s grandson and co-owner of the store. “That’s how Grandpa took care of things, and that’s pretty much how we still run the show today. We sell products that solve people’s problems, and if we don’t believe in the clothes or coats or boots or caps, we won’t put them on our shelves.”
Sometimes that means they don’t stock the latest fads, but that’s just what makes Alice’s Wonderland so popular.
“Our customers are the kind of people who spend their lives outside,” added Karpiak, “and they’re not going to come back if you sell them something that doesn’t stand up to their lifestyle.”
This philosophy stems from a belief in serving the customer the way shopkeepers used to. Because, as the Karpiaks say, “You can buy anything you want on the internet (at Alice’s website, in fact) but you visit the shop for a reason. To be helped.”
This philosophy is also the reason Alice’s now sells Stormy Kromer wool caps and clothes.
“Kromer fits us perfectly. It’s a great product with a great history, and when people say ‘You can’t find anything good that’s made in the USA,’ this is what I show them.”
And when you find our way out to Alice’s Wonderland, you’ll know the trip was worth it.