(Photo by Anna Rochelle) [Order this photo]
The historic Yoho General Store in Solsberry is back in business after an extensive renovation by new owners, CFC Properties of Bloomington, acting on the wish of the late Bill Cook -- he wanted to see the store preserved and restored to its former glory.
Hundreds of community members from the past and the present, from near and now far away, gathered in front of the landmark store on Saturday for a grand opening celebration. After the ribbon was cut by representatives of CFC and members of the Cook and Yoho families, the doors swung open. It was as though Solsberry was not only walking into a store, but into a new era.
(Photo by Anna Rochelle) [Order this photo]
"But this store is about more than buying gas, or ice cream," said Murphy. "It's about community, family, friends. It's about life."
The store has been the anchor on the main corner in downtown Solsberry for as long as most people can remember -- a trio of Yoho brothers were operating the store during the Depression; Dwight "Cotton" Yoho and his wife Pearl since the late 1940s.After Cotton passed away in 1999 and Pearl in 2000, their son Donnie Yoho carried on the tradition. When Donnie passed away in 2011, his brother Lavon Yoho kept the store going until CFC purchased it in May 2012 -- the renovation began in July.
(Photos by Anna Rochelle) [Order this photo]
They remember walking to the store in the summertime to buy ice cream, stopping in to get warm by the fire in the winter, colorful characters, tall tales and a liar's bench that has become legendary.
The town was a busy place in days gone by especially when the Solsberry School was located close to the store. Students and teachers were frequent customers at the store and they consumed many a meal across the street at Dutch's Café.
Lavon ran the café from the late 1940s until the early 1960s when the school was consolidated into Eastern-Greene and moved into a new building a few miles away.
"The new school had a cafeteria, so the students ate lunch at the school," said Lavon, "The old school didn't have a cafeteria, so they all came to eat lunch at the café."
With the built-in clientele gone, Dutch's Café closed down, but the old menu board has been preserved and now hangs in the General Store, a reminder of when the price of a cheeseburger was a quarter, a slice of home-made pie was 20 cents and a cup of coffee cost a nickel.
Prices have gone up since then -- a chalkboard above the store's new deli area lists a sausage and egg breakfast biscuit for $2 and a foot-long meat and cheese deli sandwich for $4.99 -- but the spirit of the place remains.
Today's customers will walk on the original plank flooring to select items off the refinished original shelves or pick up bread, milk and eggs. Tables and chairs provide a place to sit down beside the old stove for a quick lunch on a workday or to enjoy coffee with friends or a meal with the family.
Murphy said the renovation created a few jobs during the construction phase, and will contribute some long term jobs to the local economy -- the store will employ one manager and eight staff members.
CFC is a residential and commercial property management and development company known for its commitment to the preservation and restoration of historical structures. CFC also renovated another small general store in Laconia, Ind., but they are better known for their contributions to the restoration of the hotel at West Baden Springs. Their investments have fueled projects statewide and in Bloomington, they developed the Showers Plaza complex, Fountain Square, the Grant Street Inn Bed & Breakfast and a very long list of other historical buildings.
"We refurbished the store in a way that retains the heritage, the history and the pride," said Murphy.
CFC's interest in the store was sparked in 2008 when Bill Cook visited the town for the grand opening of his daughter-in-law's store, Ellie Mae's Boutique.
"Mr. Cook wanted us to buy and get the Yoho store going again, because it has always been a dynamic part of the town's atmosphere," said Murphy.
Bill Cook's family including his wife Gayle, son Carl and daughter-in-law Marcy were all smiles on Saturday when Bill's vision became reality.
Carl Cook, addressing Saturday's crowd with a microphone in one hand and an ice cream cone in the other, said it was a special moment for the town and he hoped the store was successful.
It was an emotional day for Lavon Yoho, and he was honored the store will retain the well-known Yoho name and continue to be a place of importance in Solsberry.
"I have 80 years of memories of Solsberry, and today marks a new day, a new beginning." said Yoho.
He said it had been a pleasure to work with the Cook Family and CFC.
"How many other communities would like to have something like this?"
The infusion of attention, energy, time and money into the project by the Cooks and CFC is certain to be a boost for the Solsberry area.
The store offers modern conveniences to families who live in the area.
For folks out on a Sunday drive in the country to see the Viaduct west of Solsberry near Tulip, or the Sculpture Trails Outdoor Museum deep in the nearby woods, or Santa when the Indiana Railroad's annual Santa Train stops a half-block from the store, the store offers more than a rest stop. It's a place full of memories, and a step back into the good old days, to a time when life didn't seem so complicated.
And the original Solsberry Liar's Bench is still there too, just waiting for anyone who wants to sit a spell and tell a big one.