Kurt Cressey and his wife, Kathy, operate the Pine Tree Store in Grand Lake Stream. The small general store is at the heart of the community in Grand Lake Stream, providing outdoor supplies, groceries, sandwiches and advice to those who seek it. The store caters to anglers, with Kurt ordering more than 750 dozen flies each year to stock his bins. They also hand-weave pack baskets, which they sell at the store and supply to outdoor stores throughout the Northeast. 

Q: Can you describe the importance of outdoor recreation in Grand Lake Stream?

A: The main role of Grand Lake Stream is fishing. We have salmon fishing from May through June, and starting June 1 and going throughout the summer, we have bass fishing. And basically, no matter how much we enjoy salmon fishing, bass fishing is the money fish. That is what supports the sporting camps and the guides and the store. Our shoulder seasons include deer hunting, bear hunting and even some moose hunting. 

Q: Can you discuss the role of the Pine Tree Store in the community?

A: Not only are we a general store, we are a resource, sort of like a mini chamber of commerce. If you have a question, this is basically where you stop to get those questions answered. We direct people not only on what fly to use, but road conditions, accommodations, upcoming events and general gossip. People even come here for medical attention. Just the other day I pulled a red humpy dry fly out of a fisherman’s hand. He asked me if it was going to hurt and I just said it won’t bother me a bit. 

Q: What makes Grand Lake Stream so special?

A: It is the people that come here that make it special. It’s a small rural town with a small resident population with enormous natural resources, whether it be waters to fish, waters to paddle, woods for hunting or hiking, and a lack of no trespassing signs.

There is freedom for four-wheelers not only to ride on the roads, but to come to the store and pick up your paper. It is very unique, and it catches people off-guard. You can sight in your rifle and drive your ATV to pick up the mail. We are not doing anything wrong but it sure feels illegal.

It’s a quaint little community, people are friendly, and there is a sense of freedom that there is nothing blocking you from what you want to do today. 

Q: How did you choose this as a career?

A: Our daughter was born Dec. 26 of 1994, and we adopted her on Dec. 28. Basically, we quit our jobs, sold our house, adopted our daughter, bought the store and opened it up on April 15, 1995.

My mother said sometimes it takes more guts than brains. I don’t know if it was a compliment, or she was just telling me I wasn’t that smart. 

Q: What prompted you to start making pack baskets?

A: Right now we make 2,000 baskets a year, and sell them throughout the Northeast. It all started because in the winter time, we were not that busy, and we were looking for more to do.

We annually do 80 percent of our income between May and September so that left a lot of what can we do for the rest of the year.

An opportunity came to buy the basket business. The business I bought made 2,000 baskets a year, and in the first year I successfully managed it down to 200. Every year after that we were able to grow it a bit, and we are now back to 2,000.

Mark Latti is the former public information officer for the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, a Registered Maine Guide and a member of the New England Outdoor Writers Association. He can be reached at:

[email protected]