- Associated Press - Sunday, December 20, 2015

UNADILLA, Mich. (AP) - “Yes, we are rebuilding,” said Unadilla Store manager Mike Harbert as a crew leveled dirt where a new country store will be built.

A devastating fire burned the old store, an irreplaceable historic building, down to the ground in January. It was a total loss.

Not only did the owners, his parents Jim and Christine Harbert, lose their business and tons of local memorabilia that was on display, rural neighbors in Unadilla Township as well as campers, fishermen and people visiting lakes and parklands lost the only convenience store for miles.

Generations of locals and vacationers would always remember things like over a hundred deer antlers and mounted fish lining the walls, the taxidermy deer in a case, the tables where people would sit and play checkers and the wall of penny candies. Nothing was salvaged.

“It’s not going to be exactly like what it was. It can’t be, but we’re trying to create something that has a certain feel to it. We are not making a modern-type building. We’re trying to keep it older looking, not cookie cutter,” Harbert said.?

In many ways, the new store will be different from the old store, which was a two-story brick building believed to have dated as far back as the 1870s.

The Livingston Daily Press & Argus (http://bit.ly/1m8SSR0 ) reports that an architectural rendering of the new Unadilla Store shows a one-story ranch-style rectangular building with a long covered front porch where people could sit and socialize.

The store’s footprint would be north of where it used to be and set back further from the road. Today’s zoning ordinances and building codes are different from when the store was first built.

In other ways, it would be similar to the old store. It would serve the same functions.

Mike Harbert said the new 80-by-40-foot store will still sell groceries, alcohol, cigarettes, lottery tickets and other supplies geared toward camper and outdoor recreationalists.

“I have to have what the campers need and the neighborhood patrons need,” he said. “We’re going to bring back the beer cave that was a hit with people,” he said.

Mike Harbert was at work that winter day when the country store went up in a blaze and collapsed.

“It was unbelievable watching everything my parents had done for 20-some years, all their aspirations and hopes, go up in flames,” he said of the fire earlier this year.

The cause of the fire was undetermined.

“Everything was gone, mangled, destroyed, melted,” he said.

The antiquities and local memorabilia destroyed in the fire can never be replaced.

However, he said it was a possibility that his family would reach out to locals for new memorabilia at some point in the future.

“But right now, I just don’t know exactly what we are going to do yet,” he added.

The new store’s interior design is still in the planning stages.

He said he would also like to eventually get a deli back up and running, but that would depend on how things go and what funds are available after the store is finished.

Unadilla Township Supervisor Linda Walker said the store was important to both the year-round residents of the lakes and countryside and vacationers to the community.

“It’s a matter of convenience, and it’s kind of a central meeting place where neighbors get together and discuss local issues,” Walker said.

“When I spoke with a rep from the DNR - they have a campground right around the corner - campers were really upset” by the loss of the store, she said.

Bruin Lake campground and other recreation spots are nearby.

Unadilla Township officials approved a land-use permit and the combination of two parcels earlier this year.

As of Friday afternoon, the Livingston County Building Department was expected to finalize a building permit in the next couple of business days.

If the weather cooperates, the foundation, building exterior and roof would go up sooner rather than later.

“Hopefully, we’re ready to open when the weather breaks and the campground opens” next year, Mike Harbert said.

___

Information from: Livingston Daily Press & Argus, http://www.livingstondaily.com

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide