Building legacy: Historic White Corner Store becomes Mt. Angel Mercantile

September 2018 Posted in Business, Community

ma mercantileBy Nancy Jennings

A first-of-its-kind overnight inn in Mount Angel is in the works and due for completion in May 2019.

But in the meantime, the former “White Corner Store,” which had been vacant for two-and-a-half years, has been transformed into Mt. Angel Mercantile and is open and ready for business.

The building, purchased in July by Kelly and Gary Grassman, held an opening celebration in August to unveil the downstairs section – a store which includes furniture, home décor, giftware and local food products.

“The grand opening exceeded my wildest imagination. We had several hundred people come to the store that night. The welcome from our customers and community was so heartfelt and inspiring. Words can’t really express the gratitude I have to my husband and kids for all their hard work in making my dream a reality. I also want to thank the Ebner/Coleman family for entrusting my family with the ‘White Corner Store’ building legacy,” Kelly said, adding that she felt an unexplainable urging to carry on that heritage.

“One day I drove up the street and I looked at the building. I heard a voice say ‘you need to find out who owns that building, and you need to call about it,’” she said.

Once she was able to walk around inside the building, she saw its original shelving units “and I couldn’t stop smiling.” It was perfect.

First constructed in 1900, the white two-story 2200-square-foot former grocery store has been a nostalgic fixture in town. Long-time residents remember the iconic “candy shelf” that enticed neighborhood children – sweet treats were purchased by the piece.

“Mothers of the kids used to pre-order their groceries and have their kids walk over and pick them up later that day. They would carry an extra nickel to treat themselves to some candy – that was their little reward,” Kelly explained, adding that the candy shelf will figure prominently in the new store.

A small room in the back of the store will act as a workshop area where assorted craft classes for the public are planned. It is important to the couple that they keep community ties strong.

Kelly, 39, and Gary, 40, have been married for 17 years. Kelly serves on the Mount Angel City Council, currently she is council president. Gary has been teaching Welding and Fabrication at Chemeketa Community College for 15 years.

Their children – Bradly, 14, and Hailey, 13 – have contributed many hours helping with the demolition inside of the building to clear the way for new additions.

“They have been working very hard,” Kelly said proudly.

“The inn is going to be all me doing everything. It’s going to be very hands on and personal. When people come, they’ll be staying in rooms that I have cleaned, prepped and decorated,” she said.

She’s had her own furniture/home decor business for four years called “Vintage Ladder,” and traveled to local craft shows setting up booths. She will continue to build items and sell them at the store.

“It really brings me joy. I love to take something people don’t think is useful anymore and breathing new life into it.”

Speaking of new life, their four-month-old Chocolate Lab puppy, “Harley,” has already stepped into her official role as “shop dog,” greeting customers with licks and a wagging tail.

The community is equally abuzz with enthusiasm.

Mount Angel Chamber of Commerce President Pete Wall said the new business, which will boast a “first” for the small town.

“For many years one of our goals has been to bring some lodging to the community because we don’t have any,” he said. “Kelly went to the Chamber Board meeting and they were extremely excited about her idea. Every single person encouraged her to keep her idea going forward. She pursued it and the store is operating – and the lodging will follow. The building she chose is a very historic place in our community that is treasured.

“Kelly, and her husband, Gary, have worked tirelessly to improve the building while keeping its historic appearance. It will get even better over time.”

Kristi Brackinreed, branch manager of Columbia Bank and chamber vice president, agrees.

“This building is part of our town’s history – it is even a stop along our Heritage Trail, so the guests will get to learn more about us while enjoying their time here,” she said.

Mount Angel City Manager Amber Mathiesen sees the benefits of running a store downstairs and an inn upstairs.

“The Mercantile adds to the fabric of our downtown, creating a shopping experience that is unique. It’s the perfect place to find that little something special – maybe something old made new – with the love infused by Kelly,” she said.

“We are super excited to add an overnight lodging option to our menu of amenities available to visitors! We have already had a few people asking when the rooms will be available.”

Mt. Angel Mercantile 980 E. Charles St., Mount Angel
Open Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

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