Scenic view of trees at camp

Pine Cove Origins: The Blue Store

by Karissa Pitaniello


If you’ve ever been to one of our Tyler camps, you’ve likely experienced the acclaimed Blue Store! The Blue Store, otherwise known as Pic-N-Pac, has been where countless Pine Cove meetings have been held, where counselors have picked up lunch before an opening day, or might even be your family’s traditional go-to stop after a week of camp! Pine Cove has had a strong relationship with the Blue Store since the DeLong family opened it in 1991. 

You might be thinking to yourself, “Self, how did this relationship begin? And what has it looked like throughout the years of camp?” You’ve got questions and we’ve got answers!

The Blue Store is the perfect blend of a restaurant, convenience store, and gas station. It’s currently owned by Flora DeLong and her son Billy. Because it’s only a few minutes from our Tyler camps, Pine Cove counselors, families, and full-time staffers have frequented the shop for years. Pine Cove has always been embraced and cared for by Flora and the DeLong family, so much so that Flora even began printing out photos of Pine Cove visitors and pasted them on the walls of the store! If you stopped by today, you’d see years and years of memories that were made at the Blue Store. 


People passing through the Blue Store on a road trip have also taken note of the Pine Cove walls. One traveler in particular said, “I saw all these pictures at a gas station outside of Tyler and saw that it said Pine Cove. So, I googled it and applied during the rest of our car ride!” That person will be a staffer at the Ranch this summer!

Cody “Fozzy” Wilhite, who was on staff with Pine Cove for 14 years and still lives in Tyler, especially loves the Blue Store. He told us, “It’s a gas station, but it has the same heart as Pine Cove.” 

Cody let us know that in the 90s, the Blue Store was seen as Pine Cove’s extended cafeteria. If things went wrong in our camp kitchens, the Blue Store was ready to help! There were even camp songs that included mentions of the Blue Store. During the early days of the Shores two-week program, part of the weekend plan was taking the campers to the Blue Store for a meal so that the Shores kitchen staff could have a meal off. 

Cody also shared that Flora sponsored Pine Cove t-shirts for many years, so the Blue Store logo appears on the back of a few of our t-shirts! Soon enough, Flora even began the tradition of letting Pine Cove staffers have fountain drinks for free. Talk about a deal! Cody’s go-to order at the Blue Store? A club sandwich with tater tots (“They’re perfect!”).

The current talk of the town around Pine Cove when it comes to the Blue Store is the story of Lance “Jabbasockee” Gilliland, Pine Cove City Glacier Site Director, accidentally getting locked in once after hours! Lance gave us the rundown, letting us know that on his last day working at the Woods in the summer of 2017, he was driving away from camp and decided to stop into the Blue Store to go to the bathroom. Because it was hopefully going to be a quick stop, he even left his car running. But when he came out of the bathroom, the inside of the store was dark and the front door was locked with a gate and a locked chain! After doing some investigating of the rest of the store, Lance realized he was definitely locked in. Not knowing what else to do, Lance called his then-director, Chris “Bro Flex” Boddy. Chris, along with Lance, found the entire situation hilarious but also didn’t know what to do! Lance ended up calling the police who contacted the DeLongs, and soon enough Lance was back on the road in his car that was waiting for him the whole time. Before leaving the store, Lance made sure to fulfill his childhood dream of putting his head under the slurpee machine like he saw done in the Jimmy Neutron cartoon. He wasn’t given free Blue Store for life, but he sure did get a good story out of it! 

We’re so grateful for the memories that have been made at the Blue Store throughout the years, and for the way the Blue Store has supported Pine Cove and cared for our staffers and campers. As you drive into town this summer, make sure to stop in to try their tater tots—a fan favorite of previous and current Pine Cove staffers. Also, when you’re there, make sure to wish Flora DeLong a happy birthday! She will be turning 85 on July 30th! 

Posted Mar 12, 2024

Karissa Pitaniello

Content Coordinator

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