GLEN - Tim Lane lives his life in bread, spending mornings up to his elbows in yeasty dough, surrounded by stacks of olive oil-soaked focaccia. So it should be of little surprise to learn that as a young farmer, straight out of college, his first crop was buckwheat.
"We got the seeds, planted it, watched it grow, harvested it, and when it was done, we lost $300," he said. "But I loved it. Absolutely loved it."
The lesson learned as young man easily prepared him for his newest role as the proprietor of the Glen Store, a historic outpost in the center of town. It's a low-traffic, weatherbeaten place with peeling red paint and a dirt driveway whose financials would perplex an accountant, but for now, Lane looks at the bigger picture.
The Leader-Herald/Bill Trojan
Tim Lane, owner of the Glen Country Store in Glen, serves some stew at the store Thursday.
"This store is the community. This is the downtown. This is the center of the greater metropolitan Glen area," Lane said with an ironic smirk. Glen only has about 2,000 residents, but Lane is one of the lifers.
He spent most of his childhood a few thousand feet down Route 30A at his grandfather's farm, which he now owns. The school bus used to drop him and his friends at the store so they could buy candy, then circle around to pick them up five minutes later.
"Imagine that happening today," he said.
He's a tinkerer by nature. His 62-acre farm, which supplies the store with fresh produce, features hydroponic vegetables, whose roots grow in water, not soil. He jury-rigged one of his greenhouses so it can grow lettuce all year without giant heating bills. He is considering getting into fish farming next - not tilapia or trout, but bass and bullheads.
Is there a market for that?
"Well, we'll have to make one," he said.
Five years ago, bread became a passion, and noticing a lack of bakers in Montgomery County, he reached out to Eileen Wagner, then the Glen Store's operator, to see if he could borrow the store's kitchen after hours. He'd work overnight honing his technique on dense, dark loaves of Russian black bread, poofy loaves of Italian and focaccia topped with onions, tomatoes and red bell peppers, then sell them at farmers markets during the week. He's a regular in Gloversville, Amsterdam and Palatine Bridge.
When offered the chance to take over the store's lease in February 2009, Lane primarily was interested purely for the kitchen, but he came to embrace the other job - caretaker of the store's heritage. The history speaks in every creak of the uneven wooden floor.
A Burnside stove sits in the center of the building, waiting to be fired up on cold nights. The white enamel-covered meat case goes back generations. Old, wavy-glassed windows are framed by shelves full of spices sold by the pound, a deep selection that includes Mexican allspice and buttermilk powder. Old barrels hold King Arthur flour and turbinado sugar. It's the kind of place where you can buy backstrap molasses by the gallon and Mason jars by the case.
"We love the old-style, apothecary look of the place," Lane said, "but we try to enhance it with as many local products as we can."
The milk is from Duncraven Farms Dairy in Palatine, sold in old glass bottles. The maple syrup is from Adirondack Maple Farms in Fonda. Jars of tomato sauce are from a pizzeria in Middle Grove. The honey is from Rulison Farms in the town of Florida, which used to bring its bees to Lane's farm.
There are conventional general store staples, too, such as cereal and canned goods, but Lane said most food suppliers don't like to make the trip up the hill. "It makes things complicated, but that's OK. We'd rather make it ourselves anyway," he said.
So in addition to the bread, Lane offers cinnamon buns, turnovers, sandwiches and soup throughout the day and hot suppers at night. On some days, you'll find him on the tiny front lawn, barbecuing chicken. Some nights, pizza is the specialty, with sourdough and whole-wheat crusts.
"I've been stopping here for years," said Art Graulich, a dairy farmer in Carlisle, Schoharie County. "Now they have good pastries. And coffee."
"Life is about food, so shouldn't it be about good food?" Lane asked. "I believe we can make it work. We just need to keep trying new things while keeping the old."
Bill Pitcher is the city editor and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.