Ottervale Store reopens, offers locally crafted treats

aldersons 2.jpg

By KAREN PARKER | County Line Editor

It doesn’t take too much imagination to picture what the Ottervale Store might have looked like in the 1890s.

The shelves were no doubt lined with the basic staples a Kickapoo Valley housewife might have needed: flour, sugar, salt, basic spices, liniments and creams for the home medicine cabinets and likely a pickle barrel and a cracker barrel. Whatever it contained, it no doubt beat taking the much longer trip into La Farge to purchase the essentials.

Thanks to the efforts of Kevin and Patsy Alderson, the old Ottervale Store now has new life, and, yes, it is still a store, although the inventory is much different.

Alderson, a retired Cashton High School history teacher, and Patsy, his wife, an artist, have spent many grueling hours over the past six months, restoring the building to its former, well, plainness. A basic 18-by-26-foot building, the store has no eye-popping architectural features. It was serviceable and suited the needs of the tough pioneers of Ottervale, a hamlet situated a few miles east of La Farge, off Highway 82.

Despite its lack of charm, the Aldersons were drawn to the old building, located about a mile away from where they live on Husker Hollow Road. While in Cashton, they had a shop called Cashton Mercantile, and they both missed the retail business.

It was only after they bought the building from Micah Hegge that they discovered an unusual twist. The store had been owned and operated by Kevin’s great-great-aunt and great-great-uncle, August and Christina Gudgeon. Christina had been the mother of three daughters when her husband disappeared under foggy circumstances. Her family set her up in the store so that she would have the income to raise her daughters. She later married Gudgeon, and the two ran the store together and had three sons.

The Aldersons aren’t sure how long the building was a store, but they do know it eventually evolved into a home and then a farm storage building. That’s where the work started: Removing decades of cobwebs, grain and items too rank to mention and scrubbing kerosene stains from the floor. It took a new roof and 26 gallons of paint, all applied by hand, before the old building moved from ugly to quaint. Patsy restored a rusty old wood stove to its shining splendor, and Kevin collected historical items from Ottervale to create a mini-museum in the back of the store.

A devoted local historian, Kevin has stocked the store with book titles from local writers, including his and Patsy’s book on round barns of Vernon County. Later this year, he will also have a title from the University of Wisconsin Press on the 165 Civil War letters he found at an auction in Cashton.

“We missed the store (in Cashton) and we missed the people,” Alderson noted. “This has given us a chance to meet our neighbors.”

Although the store has only been open since mid-June, there is plenty of inventory to keep the shopper interested.

“We wanted to feature locally produced items as much as possible,” Patsy said.

The store is an eclectic mix of Patsy’s own art work, side-by-side with locally produced maple syrup, Kickapoo Coffee and a line of non-perishable food items, including jams, jellies, pickled beans, Amish candy and other mouth-watering treats, Locally produced crafts such as rugs, handcrafted wooden bowls and pottery, both Amish and non-Amish, are also available. And on a hot day, you can open the cooler and enjoy a bottle of Spring Valley soda.

You can find the Ottervale Store west of La Farge, off Highway 82, on Husker Hollow Road. The store is open Wednesday through Saturday from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. or by chance on other days.

aldersons 3.jpg

aldersons.jpg


Comments are closed.

  • Pedal power on a penny farthing

    July 30th, 2014
    by

    Click here to see Wilton resident Betsy Schindler’s account of the visit. By PAT MULVANEY Courtesy of the Sparta Herald […]


    Brookwood graduate serves in Peace Corps in Uganda

    July 23rd, 2014
    by

    By LYDA LANIER Special to the County Line Volunteering to serve in the Peace Corps was the next step for […]


    Therapy dog delights children at Norwalk library program

    July 23rd, 2014
    by

    By KAREN PARKER | County Line Publisher The average senior citizen might find more than a dozen high-energy kids a […]


  • Fleatiquing Mall & More opens Saturday in Union Center

    July 9th, 2014
    by

    By KAREN PARKER | County Line Publisher Frugal shoppers may recall C&M Liquidators in Union Center, where everything from household items […]


    Kansas man reflects on return to Kendall after 30-year absence

    March 5th, 2014
    by

    Have you ever wondered what it’s like to return to a town after decades of absence? Richard Brown shares his […]


    Ontario of yesteryear

    September 19th, 2013
    by

    County Line staff has been searching for the photo below for a long time. It is a rare shot of […]


  • Local Weather

  • What’s Happening

    Tomah Memorial donates to food pantry

    Tomah Memorial Hospital Marketing and Public Relations Director Eric Prise (left) recently presented a $240 check to Tomah Neighbor For Neighbor Food Pantry executive director Teresa Pierce.

    Great heights

    Village of Ontario employee Dan Hyatt decorates the tree in front of the Ontario Community Hall last week.

    Gates wins pool; Pasch fifth

    Royall’s Connor Gates won the 126B pool at the Tomah Scramble on Saturday, taking a perfect 4–0 finish. Gates won his first match with a 9–3 decision,