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Hunters Corner closes after 72 years
MARYSVILLE More than seven decades of history went on the block last week when the Hunters Corner grocery store and gas station was sold to the Marysville School District.
The store is a local legacy dating back to the days when Whiskey Ridge got its name, and owners Shannon and Melinda Ramey have the still their grandfather used to make moonshine on display in the store, along with many other relics of a bygone era.
The store will close the double doors for the last time Sept. 14, and the Rameys will hold an open house to say goodbye to their long-time customers the next day, on Saturday, Sept. 15 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. The Rameys have lived and worked on the Getchell Hill site for most of their lives along with Melindas mother Rose Hunter.
The store was founded in 1935 by Ira Pappy Russ Hunter and his wife Bessie after their trucking business failed during the Great Depression. Bessie had owned 15 acres on the hill since 1911, when she collected a settlement from a railroad accident.
The road in that day was a rough route from the timberlands near Granite Falls to the lumber mills in Everett. Many Ford Model Ts ran out of gas transiting the hill due to the placement of the fuel intake lines on the gas tank until drivers discovered they could make the grade by driving up the hill in reverse. Pappy was an avid moonshiner and kept his still hidden behind a secret sliding panel to appease his wife. Granddaughter Melinda wrote that she found the still years later and wondered why a man would have a stove in his shed. She also wondered why Pappy grew so much corn but was never seen eating any of it. That still is the same one on display at the Getchell Hill store, under the vintage tools and tires. The relic is an ironic twist to Hunter, who said her side of the family have always been teetotalers.
The area to the south of the hill was already known as Whiskey Ridge when Pappy moved there from Nova Scotia, Ramey said.
I think they came along later, she laughed. They just kind of fit right in.
At 72 years running the gas station is not quite the oldest business in Marysville Ooosterwyks Bakery and Carrs Hardware store clock in at about 84 years old, and Carrs owner Darlene Scott grew up in Whiskey Ridge and has fond memories of making the trip to fill up the tank and buy treats. There were only three or four houses on the entire street and it was a big deal to have a gas station there, Scott recalled.
That used to be my favorite little store and the gas station we went to when I was little girl, Scott said earlier this week.
But as the area has grown lots of businesses have moved into the area, making it tough to compete. Ramey remembered her grandfather selling gas for 30 cents per gallon and making a six-cent profit or about a 20 percent margin; nowadays it would be tough to make the same markup on gas selling for
10 times the amount, and as a small retailer the Rameys pay more for wholesale than many other big chains sell at their pumps near the freeway.
The increased regulatory burden adds to the competitive pressures. Ramey said the gas station and C-store deals with the scrutiny of 24 different agencies regulating fuel, alcohol, tobacco, insurance, wages, and even the gasoline vapors.
Its tough to do business in todays climate, and with the city of Marysville routing the new east-west arterial behind the store the Rameys figured now was a good time to sell to the school district. Currently 84th Street NE runs from 67th Avenue to SR 9; but in the next couple years 88th Street NE will wind up Getchell Hill to connect to 84th east of Hunters Corner, named for the intersection of 84th and 83rd Avenue NE.
The district paid $846,000 for 1.43 acres, according to John Bingham, Marysville School District capital projects director. The district has assembled 38 acres for the new Marysville Getchell High School, but the Hunters Corner property is not included in that. The land might be used to realign the entrance with 83rd Avenue, or it could host a performing arts center, more parking lots or an additional school segment.
Right now theres nothing slated for that piece, Bingham said.
The fuel tanks were replaced and upgraded in 1992 and the Rameys must complete a site clean up approved by the Washington State Department of Ecology, Bingham added. Neither he or the Rameys expected any difficulties.
We think it will go fairly clean and quick, said Melinda Ramey, who has lived on the site for decades, with a well to provide water for her family. Weve never felt like polluting our drinking water.
She and her husband Shannon have a two-acre plot on the opposite side of 84th Street and that could be a potential commercial site if zoning allows the use, she added. Right now they feel like taking it easy for awhile.
Living next door to the store can be a blessing and a curse; Shannon recalled seeing someone take a gas can from the back of the store after closing time. He quickly got into his car and chased the guy, and then driving him to his stranded vehicle and helping him get back on the road.
I just wanted my gas can back, he shrugged.
Rose Hunter is Melindas mother, and she remembered that up until about the early 1970s she could leave the place unlocked and nothing would be touched. Things have changed since then.