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Solsberry General Store Gets Another Life

CFC Properties is renovating the Yoho General Store for a fall opening.

  • Yoho General Store

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    Photo: Gretchen Frazee/WFIU-WTIU News

    CFC Properties says it is trying to maintain the original qualities of the Yoho General Store.

  • windows

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    Photo: Gretchen Frazee/WFIU-WTIU News

    The Yohos used to sell ice cream out of the windows of the general store.

  • wood stove

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    Photo: Gretchen Frazee/WFIU-WTIU News

    CFC Properties is keeping the Yoho General Store's original wood-burning stove.

  • Store siding

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    Photo: Gretchen Frazee/WFIU-WTIU News

    CFC Properties is adding on to the side of the Yoho General Store to made the building bigger.

More than fifty years ago, the square, white-wood two-story building called the Yoho General Store was the place to go in Solsberry, Ind., to fill up on gas, get your daily dose of town gossip, or simply buy a scoop of its famous ice cream.

That all changed in 1961 when Solsberry School was consolidated with the Center and Jackson township schools, pulling people away from the center of town.

Remembering Old Times

Standing at an intersection Solsberry, you can imagine everything as it used to be. The store was just a block from the train station, next door to one of the most popular restaurants in town, and within walking distance from the area school.

80-year-old Levon Yoho remembers those time well. He had bought that corner restaurant when he was just 17 years old, and his parents owned the General Store, where he would often work. He says in front of the store was a liar’s bench—a bench that served as a gathering place for people to share their stories, real or fiction.

“I often think of the stories that were told over the years at the liars bench,” he says. “I wish I had made a recording of all the conversations that went on there.”

After Yoho’s parents died, the General Store was left to him and his brother. The town had become less concentrated and keeping up the store became financially difficult. Then, last year, Yoho’s brother also died, making it impossible to keep the store open at all.

The Renovations

That’s when Cook Group came in. Their property management subsidiary CFC bought the store and is now making renovations. On a recent weekday, workers stabilize the foundation of the building and replace decaying wood on the outside walls.

“These windows open to the interior so they could serve ice cream through the windows, so you could walk up and get your ice cream cone,” CFC President Jim Murphy says as he walks around the building, pointing out ways his company plan to keep the feel of the old store.

“This flooring is going to be kept as much as we can,” he says. “We’re going to refurbish as much as possible. If you walk over this way, you’ll see, we’re trying to identify what type of a flooring is under here so we’ve scratched away the surface of what’s built up from year to year.”

In addition to the flooring, the general store will keep the original wood burning stove and remake the liars’ bench.

These kinds of projects are not new to Cook. Founder Bill Cook had a passion for renovations, and now his son, Carl Cook, says he’s trying to continue his legacy.

“Dad actually wanted us to try to buy this when my wife was opening the boutique,” he says. “It wasn’t for sale then.”

Carl Cook’s wife already owns a boutique just down the street from the Yoho General Store. After all, Cook says, this place really is home to some of his family.

“My wife grew up just a few miles down the street so this is really her hometown. So for her and my in-laws, it’s a big deal that the store is coming back,” he says. “For everyone around here, everyone I’ve talked to has come up to me and said I’m so glad the store’s going to be coming back.

And the store will not just be for show. Cook says after the initial investment, the store can be profitable. Of course it will not bring Solsberry back to what it once was, but Levon Yoho says it is a step in the right direction.

“We couldn’t change with the times quite as fast as we would have liked to, but I think the time has come when we will see a revitalization of the area here,” he says.

CFC Properties plans to continue work during the summer and hopes to open the store for business in the fall. They do not have the full list of what will be sold at the store, but you can bet they will offer ice cream and maybe a story or two about the history of the Yoho General Store and the role it has played in Solsberry.

Gretchen Frazee

Gretchen Frazee is a reporter/producer for WFIU and WTIU news. Prior to her current role, Frazee worked as the associate online content coordinator for WFIU/WTIU. She graduated from the University of Missouri-Columbia where she studied multimedia journalism and anthropology. You can follow her on Twitter @gretchenfrazee.

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