Historic ‘Land of Make Believe’ Gift Shop Transformed Into Coffee Cafe

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A new coffee cafe has opened in Upper Jay, New York. The location it has opened up in has brought back memories for many in the North Country.

The Land of Make Believe was a staple of Jay for years. It was built in 1950 by a man named Arto Monaco. 

According to the Arto Monaco Historical Society, Monaco was born in Au Sable Forks in 1913 and grew up in Upper Jay. Every year, thousands of visitors from all over the would traveled to Jay to go the Land of Make Believe. 

“It would be strictly for kids,” Monaco said. “Kids up to 12 years old and if their father and mother want to come they can come with them but it’s a kids park.”

Monaco died at the age of 90 and the Land of Make Believe closed in 1979. It suffered from repeated flood damage and when Tropical Storm Irene came through most of the park was washed away. However, one building was in tact: the gift shop.

Michelle Axtell is the owner’s wife at Adirondack Mountain Coffee. She explained that her mother-in-law opened the coffee roasting business in 2009 before her husband took over two years later.

“The idea was to always expand into something like this,” Axtell said.

The Arto Monaco Historical Society took notice to the family business’ ambitions to expand.

“The Arto Monaco Historical Society knew we wanted to expand and they wanted something done with the building so we got together and we worked something out,” Axtell said.

Michelle Axtell does a little bit of everything at Adirondack Mountain Coffee. The cafe has opened its doors just a week ago. They serve breakfast and, of course, freshly ground and brewed coffee. For some, the family is serving up something sentimental too.

“We’ve had a ton of people coming in saying they haven’t been here since it was the Land of Make Believe,” Axtell said. “‘I remember coming here as a kid and when my kids were kids’. A lot of people are happy to see there’s something here again.”

One person who has fond memories of the kids park is Sue Young.

Young can now be found at Young’s Studio & Gallery in Jay, but as a teenager she worked in the stables at the Land of Make Believe. She said it was the best place to work.

Young was able to stop in to the Adirondack Mountain Coffee cafe. She said walking through the door brought tears to her eyes.

Axtell will continue to work with the Arto Monaco Historical Society to decorate with Land of Make Believe memorabilia.

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