In a way my neighbors Merlyn and Mary Ellen Lewis have had as much of a hand as anyone in saving the Orenco Grocery Store also known as the Orenco Mercantile Store. The 1908 building is one of the last remaining buildings in the historic town of Orenco and the Lewis’s have rebuilt it from a burned out shell to a classic beauty; not perfect but beautiful all the same.
It must have been in the 1980’s that they bought the old store. It had been subjected to fire and many a kids thrown rock and graffiti. Still they saw the beauty of the grand old place where we bought penny candy and jaw-breakers as kids.
In the 1970’s we roller skated up in the upper story. My friend Steve’s parents, Jeff and Pat Close, owned it for a time so we spent a few hours in there when it was vacant. It was always a place you wanted to stop and see if someone had re-opened it.
Now the Merlyn and Mary Ellen hold down the corner of Alder and 229th Avenue welcoming visitors who drive by with a wave and who stop with a brochure or info on the Orenco story. Merlyn has been known to tour people on occasion (no promises) around the inside of the main store area which remains intact and is filled with woodworking projects, wheels, scooters, and meat grinders. It was he who spent thousands of hours on the work to bring the store back and no one but a master wood craftsmen like this guy would have been able to do this.
The foundation, roof, some structural members, and especially the glass storefront were replaced and it was a thing of wonder to witness.
There is more I can tell but I will dedicate a future story to that- for now I just want you all to know these are the people, the kind of people, that we live with here in the historic district. It is they, not the buildings, who make this place what it is; something special beyond fathom.
Thanks Merlyn and Mary Ellen for all you have done.