Nearly 100 Years in the Making – a Tale of the Yoho General Store
For nearly 100 years, the Yoho General Store has been the community staple in the small American town of Solsberry, located in southern Indiana. Back in the day, you could always expect to find the doors open, welcoming friends and family to gather around the warm, crackling fireplace. As a child, sitting on the hand-crafted liar’s bench was the best seat. You could expect to be picked on a little bit by the old timers and, at times, find yourself questioning if the stories they shared were real or not. But it didn’t matter because everyone was in good company.
The Yoho General Store was unlike any other place around. The floor-to-ceiling shelves were packed with all the essential goods and more. One could find: canned goods, hostess cakes, clothes, shoes, basket liners, pesticides, Coca Cola calendars, Kellogg’s posters, glass bottled sodas, Chocolate Soldier drinks, roughly a pound of dust, and so much more. Honestly, it would be difficult to name everything because of how much was actually there. But, if you needed something, there was a good chance Cotton had it, and if he didn’t, he knew where to send you.
Aside from the everyday things you might pick up at the store, the more enjoyable reason to visit was Cotton and Pearl’s cookin’. Nothing was better than a hot spiced ham sandwich with a bag of Cornies and a bottle of Coke. Or Pearl’s coney dogs or the classic ham or bologna sandwiches. Somehow, they always knew how to make them taste the best. Even more so was the ice cream!
Standing at the cold case with the anticipation of how that ice cream would taste when it hit your tongue was almost unbearable. Kids would find their way to the store for lunch between school classes and afterward to enjoy a double-dipped cone. What made it convenient is Cotton would allow the kids to put their purchases on their parent’s tab. So, sneaking a sweet treat here and there was acceptable. Cotton once shared that chocolate ice cream is what caused freckles. The majority of Solsberry kids have freckles. What’s that tell ya?
Once Cotton and Pearl passed, their youngest son, Donnie, ran the store. He’d have social gatherings inside the store that included a potluck. Everyone brought the good stuff. Those gatherings were like family reunions. Everyone would just hang out, talk, and stuff themselves silly. Those were the days.
When Donnie passed unexpectedly, his brother Lavon jumped in to help keep the store afloat. But it wasn’t easy. Lavon already had a full-time job. Some of the adults would chip in to help when they could.
One day, there was a group of visitors nearby for the grand opening of EllieMae’s Boutique; the new business owner was Marcy Cook, a Solsberry native. Her charming boutique was a quaint place for styling hair and selling upscale country decor and antiques. A place all mothers and grannies eventually found themselves flocking to.
Following the event, there was a whisper in the air that someone might have an interest in purchasing and fixing up the Yoho General Store. Fortunately, that whisper became a reality. On June 1, 2012, a company specializing in historic restoration and property management bought the store. That company was CFC Properties. And the one who sparked the purchase was Bill Cook, the Co-founder of CFC and Cook Medical.
Lavon was excited to put the store in the hands of CFC. He was confident it was the best thing for the store and the community. Some community members shared Lavon’s same enthusiasm, while some were reserved and unsure. Then again, we all know it can be challenging to teach an old dog new tricks. But the point to remember is that it can be done; it just might take a while longer.
Several construction crews came into Solsberry on a mission. The scaffolding went up, stuff came down, stuff went in, and stuff came out. At one point, a peek of the interior looked like a tornado had struck it. How the crew found anything in there is a mystery. But somehow, they pulled it off.
Within five months or so, the once-old and worn place shined up like a fresh pair of buffed shoes you couldn’t wait to walk around in. It had it all! New wood siding, paint, a tin roof, all new electrical, HVAC, and running water. Believe it or not, the store didn’t have running water. So, needless to say, running water in itself was a big improvement. At one point, CFC’s hired construction crew even lifted the building to replace the footer underneath. Have you ever seen a building float? It’s mesmerizing.
On the day of the ribbon-cutting ceremony, a large crowd gathered along the front of the store. You could very well say the whole town was there, plus more. There was so much excitement and anticipation in the air. There were a handful of individuals who spoke in front of the store’s entrance: Jim Murphy, the President of CFC Properties; Lavon Yoho, the former owner; and Carl Cook, the son of Bill Cook.
Mr. Murphy shared fond childhood memories of visiting the store with his family for ice cream and thanked everyone who helped make the restoration possible.
Afterward, Mr. Murphy invited Lavon up to say a few words. He shared, “I have 80 years of Solsberry memories.” And if you knew Lavon, you knew to expect the stories to follow that comment, which they did. After the stories, he went back to talking about the ceremony. He said, “Today marks a new day and new beginning. I ask for your support and participation in this new adventure. The new beginning for Solsberry starts today!”
Mr. Carl Cook stepped up next and expressed gratitude toward Lavon for allowing the establishment to continue running under the same name, the “Yoho General Store.” Then, Mr. Murphy followed, declaring, “The store is open!” And like cattle, the crowd was off to squeeze into the store to examine it thoroughly.
Eyes peered across the store and up and down every nook and cranny. It was so different, yet so familiar. There was a fancy new kitchen, lots of shelving and coolers with various goods, fresh paint, bright lights, and even a couple of tables to sit at to enjoy a deli sandwich. Many were pleased to see that the original wooden floor with the metal Yoho plate remained intact, including some shelving, and the pot belly stove so many gathered around to stay warm in the winter months. Lavon looked very pleased and happy that day, often caught with a smile on his face.
It was and still is genuinely amazing what CFC Properties was able to accomplish. It was exactly what Solsberry needed to keep it going. Even today, people come and go all day long. And some sit and hang out for hours in the morning to eat breakfast, drink coffee, and talk shop. It’s funny how some things never change.
This story was made possible by all those in the community who have shared their insights and stories over the years. None of it has been forgotten, nor will it ever. Several tidbits were also inspired by the book, “Rails Through Time,” which was written by Larry Shute, Solsberry’s former town historian.
About CFC Properties
CFC Properties, A Cook Group Company with a passion for historic preservation, purchased and restored the 1930s Yoho General Store in 2012. CFC was successful in restoring much of the original store as possible during its renovation. CFC is committed to Solsberry and is grateful that the Yoho General Store can continue to be a staple in serving the Solsberry community. CFC’s passion for historic preservation also extends to Bloomington and Laconia, Indiana, including Canton, Illinois. To learn about additional properties CFC has restored, please visit www.cfcproperties.com.