Iconic Northwoods Cabin sign is back in lights in Tupper Lake

The Northwood Cabins’ iconic, classic 1950s neon sign is back up and glowing after the protective barrier covering it for the winter was removed last week. (Enterprise photo — Aaron Cerbone)

TUPPER LAKE — A neon glow once again greets drivers traveling into this town from its eastern end.

The iconic Northwood Cabins sign was refurbished last spring but covered up with plywood boards for the past nine months, causing some to think the motel was out of business.

“My little structure there did cause quite the buzz in town I guess,” Brian Burns, who co-owns Northwood Cabins with his wife Renee, said. “I saw some comments on Facebook, ‘Oh, another failed Adirondack business.'”

Brian said the plywood was a temporary solution, protecting the fragile neon bulbs from snowplows and the harsh Adirondack winter.

“In October I was the dumbest man in Tupper Lake, by March I was the smartest,” Brian said.

It worked well. According to Renee, the wood was splashed with snow and gravel throughout the winter.

“The neon is fragile, and every time I touch it I break it, so I would prefer not to have to have it remade every year,” Brian said.

Neon is a rare sight in the Adirondacks, but the large sign was grandfathered in by the Adirondack Park Agency, so long as the Burns’ did not change its size or location.

As the two hosted an second-year anniversary open house party at the cabins Thursday, they showed friends, neighbors and business partners around the 10 refurbished cabins and shared stories about their favorite guests.

The couple from Batavia bought the cabins in 2016 after they retired from state and federal jobs. Brian, who has been visiting Tupper Lake his entire life, says he always liked seeing the cozy cabins on state Route 30, but never imagined owning them until the opportunity to run his own business presented itself.

He and Renee said they never knew how much work would go into simultaneously restoring and running a motel, but despite all their struggles, said they would do it all again.

Renee said she enjoys having new people every week, sitting by the fires on the cabin front porches, playing cards in the common room connected to their residence in the “big house” and sharing stories of their Adirondack adventures over continental breakfast.

The neon sign’s wood protection will be an annual protective measure, but next season, Brian said he will make it a bit smaller.