PULASKI, N.Y. (WSYR-TV) — There’s no place like Pulaski during the fall season. Not only is the foliage incredible, but the Salmon River is also jumping with trophy fish you’d only find here or in Alaska.

On the Salmon River, you’ll find a family-owned business whose motto is, “It’s better to make a customer than a sale.” This is where you’ll find third-generation owner, Zana Gervaise helping customers find what they need, whether it’s a product or support. 

Gervaise said, “There’s an energy to this town when people come in and they start catching fish. That definitely left a mark on me and still does. That’s why I love being here, I feel a lot closer to my grandpa.”

Zana’s grandfather, Ron Gervaise, opened the Salmon River Sports Shop in 1972. Zana grew up here, surrounded by the love and passion for fishing.

Gervaise said, “Have you ever been salmon fishing? Oh, it’s an experience. When you hook into one, I mean like the adrenaline rush is incredible. They start peeling line right away – zing!- going downriver, everyone’s yelling ‘Fish on!’ trying to get out of the way, chasing after them. Sometimes they jump out of the water and put on a show, it’s really fun!”

She hooked her first salmon when she was 12-years-old. It took an exhausting 40 minutes but what she values most is her dad, Brant, being right by her side.

Gervaise said, “He was smiling ear to ear like that was the best part of it for me cause I got to share it with him and my grandpa was still alive at the time so he got to see that.”

When Zana’s grandfather passed away, her father took over the store with the help of a family friend.

About four years ago, Zana moved to Wisconsin but came back every fall.

Gervaise said, ” I came back to fish ’cause I’m like everyone else, I can’t stay away. When I hear the fish run, alright, I’ll make the drive for the week and come out to fish and see family.”

After more than 45 years in business, family health issues forced them to close the store last fall.

Gervaise said, “Seeing the store closed last year, I couldn’t stomach it two years in a row, it was really hard on us as a family and a lot of people that have been coming in since they were little kids.”

Zana put a lot of thought in what to do next. The pandemic made the decision even tougher.

A few months ago, she picked up the phone and called her father.

Gervaise said, “Hey, I’m going to but the store off of you and open it up. He said, ‘Are you sure?’ I said If I wasn’t sure we wouldn’t be having this conversation.”

She took on the challenge, not knowing if people would be able to walk through the front door.

Once she did open the doors, the energy and the memories started flowing in.

Gervaise said, “I can’t tell you how many people come in and just tell me this was their favorite place and they were so sad to see us closed this past year.”

Travis, a Binghamton native who has been traveling to the Salmon River every year said, “It was depressing when they were closed, super depressing. I’m super proud of her, I hope she does well.”

Gervaise said, “They just come in and show their support, tell me all these incredible stories about their first time they come here fishing.”

Sean Hanson, a first-time salmon fisher from Philadelphia, said, “Zana the salmon fishing princess was awesome! She really helped us get started I actually got in two fish on the spot she recommended.”

Gervaise said, “I hear stories like that and talk to these people and connect with them and they tell me about my grandpa and my father and just all this stuff. I know I made the right decision. I’m so happy I’m here to help them build more of those memories.”