From anthills to microbrews – the Midvale Store

    The post-war years were a time of rapid change across Fremont County. Riverton and Lander grew, Pavillion and Shoshoni began to shrink and in the spaces between small stores sprang up at crossroads across the county.

    In 1946, Albert (Ab) and Doris Lund, and Wanda and Iris Stubbs found a niche and built the Midvale Mercantile. For generations, it would be known as the Midvale Store and has gradually changed to become the Midvale Station, one of the few rural restaurants and bars thriving in Wyoming.

    The Midvale Station serves local clientele as well as tourists and hunters – h/t Midvale Station l

    Doris and Wanda were sisters, children of Clifford and Thelma Vermillion Fike.

    Clifford and Thelma had two other children, Marjorie June, and Claude when they moved from Missouri to Lyman, Nebraska in 1925. In 1929, Clifford moved his family to Pavillion.

    Thelma Lund – h/t Carol Harper

    Clifford built a unique home for his family from the native rock in the area, using sand sifted from anthills mixed with cement for mortar.

    Cliff and Thelma (Vermillion) Fike and their children Wanda, Doris, June and Claude. In order in the photo Claude, June, Doris, Thelma Vermillion Fike, their mother, then Wanda and Cliff – h/t Chuck Starks

    Thelma died in 1933, leaving Wanda at age 14 to take care of her younger brothers and sisters.

    In 1938, Wanda married Iris Stubbs. They moved to San Diego during World War II, where Iris was a carpenter at Camp Pendelton, and Wanda cooked at the Marine Base. They also worked for Alcoa Aluminum in Spokane before returning to the farm in 1944.

    The home of Ab and Doris Lund behind the Midvale Store – h/t Carol Harper

    In 1946, Wanda and Doris, and their husbands, pooled their money and purchased a small house at the intersection of Eight Mile and Missouri Valley Road. They lived together in the tiny house during the winter of 1946-47 while Ab and Iris built the Midvale Mercantile.

    Dale, Thelma, Doris, Ab, Carol, and Joyce Lund – h/t Chuck Starks

    “They sold a little bit of everything,” Chuck Starks, who married their daughter Thelma Lund said. “They even had slot machines before the state shut them down. I bought my first hunting rifle there, a .30-06 with a scope. It cost $93 for the rifle and $27 for the scope.”

    Chuck lived just over the hill to the northwest on his parents’ Steve and Alma’s farm.

    Claudy Fike with a bull snake he caught behind the rock house – h/t Chuck Starks

    “I was raised on the farm,” Chuck said. “For a little recreation, I’d start our Ford 8N tractor and drive it to the store for an ice cream cone.”

    Chuck is now retired but was a well-known welder and started StarTech on Country Acres Road.

    June, Wanda and Doris – h/t Chuck Starks

    Across the street from the Midvale Mercantile was a welding shop owned and operated by Melvin Wolf.

    “I’d go down and watch them work. I was fascinated by how they worked. They made their own acetylene,” Chuck said. “That must have been when I got interested in welding.”

    Midvale Mercantile sold groceries, meat, produce, rifles, ammunition, and ag supplies. They had a gas station and sold hunting and fishing licenses as well.

    Thelma and Kim Starks – h/t Chuck Starks

    “I didn’t have to go far to find Thelma,” Chuck said. “She was just over the hill.”

    Midvale was one of the few rural stores that thrived without a post office attached to it.

    While it was the Lunds and Stubbs that started the store, another family is most often remembered when the story of the Midvale Store is told.

    Doris Fike Lund, Kathryn Fike (married to Little Claude), Wanda Fike Stubbs, the little girls are Claude and Kathryn’s daughters, Janis (the little one) and Myra (their oldest) – h/t Chuck Starks

    Art, better known as A.J. and Donna Over purchased the store from Iris and Wanda in 1969.

    “I went to Missoula to move my aunt, her kids, and my uncle to California,” their son Ernie Over said. “When I was in California they bought the store. We were living in Lander when I left and when I got back we were in Midvale.”

    A.J. sold beer at the store, keeping it in a big cooler that is now in a health food store in Riverton.

    The Midvale Store – h/t Randy Tucker

    “You couldn’t drink it there,” Ernie said. “Mom had a penny candy counter for all the kids. She had one when she was a kid.”

    A.J. and Donna changed the name to the Midvale Store and made a few other improvements as well.

    They had a Stewart’s Sandwich Machine, something new before the microwave arrived. The machine cooked frozen sandwiches in a convection oven.

    Customers pulled their sandwiches out of the freezer, put them in the machine, and waited a few minutes for them to cook.

    “During beet harvest, Mom made sandwiches and sack lunches for the truck drivers,” Ernie said.

    The Midvale Station approaching from the west – h/t Randy Tucker

    When the Overs arrived, the Stubbs had a minnow tank in the back of the store. The Stubbs had catered to fishermen and nearby Ocean Lake, but they didn’t continue catching and storing minnows and turned the area into a storage room. The tank is still there in the back room.

    The store was heated with coal. Originally they picked up coal twice a year from Kirby, where it was still being mined on a small scale at Gebo. Later they had to make the long trek to Sheridan every six months.

    The Midvale Store just before the new facade was installed – h/t Ernie Over

    A.J. and Donna were still running a small alfalfa and wheat farm while running the store at the same time.

    “We’d take Dad’s big grain truck to Sheridan. We slid the coal into the furnace room,” Ernie said. “Taking the clinkers out was a pretty regular thing.”

    The coal heated their home as well.

    The Midvale Station approaching from the east – h/t Randy Tucker

    “We lived above the store in an apartment,” Ernie said.

    Midvale was a true grocery store.

    Their supplier was Kyle Groceries from Billings but the wholesaler stopped serving the store because their orders weren’t big enough.

    Another well-known grocer kept them supplied.

    “Ben Moss of Lander, Ben’s supermarket, would add our order with his then we’d drive to Lander and pick it up in a pickup,” Ernie said. “We’d buy stuff at the big sales in Riverton, like pop, because it was cheaper than the distributors sold it to us. It was pretty much the same store into the 1990s.”

    A 1970s grocery aisle similar to Ben’s Supermarket – h/t Pinterest

    Gradually business declined with improved roads and customers just drove to Riverton.

    “People just stopped buying groceries there, we ended up serving just milk and bread,” Ernie said. “We stopped selling most groceries and just sold convenience items. It turned into a mini convenience store.”

    A.J. grew up in Forsyth Montana.

    “His Dad had a general store, he always liked that, when Midvale came open he scooped it up.”

    A.J.’s father had a second store at Ingomar on the Hi-Line.

    The Midvale Store when owned by Lou Rochlitz – h/t Ernie Over

    “Dad was raised with those stores, and he had an inkling to do that,” Ernie said.

    They operated the store for 23 years.

    “We had a bunch of local folks who worked for us, including Ron Cunningham and Cerella Overgard,” Ernie said. “We didn’t take much credit. If they asked the answer was generally no.”

    The store’s garage served the Midvale Fire Department.

    “The fire district had a fire truck in the garage attached to the store,” Ernie said. “Dad, Jim, and Mom were all in the Midvale Fire Department. There was a sign in front of the garage that read, Fire Truck No Parking.”

    The current Midvale Fire Hall – h/t County 10

    A country store is the hub of the community. The location of Midvale made that even truer.

    “They had a regular clientele and they got to know the folks in the community,” Ernie said. “We sold

    Sweetheart bread, milk from Morningstar Dairy, and we bought frozen meat from Farmer’s Packing or Logan’s. We tried produce, but it didn’t sell, people went by it because they didn’t trust it.”

    They did trust local potatoes grown by Oral White just a few miles down the road.

    Memorable events stand out from the day-to-day operation of a store.

    The Midvale Store as it looked for almost four decades – h/t County 10

    “One day I was home visiting in the summer. There was a giant thunderstorm. We were sitting in the store and saw this guy go by on a bicycle. Mom said go get that guy. Dad jumped into the truck and took him back to the store. Mom made a whole loaf of peanut butter sandwiches to take with him,” Ernie said. “He was riding from Florida to Washington. Two years later he came back, he was a schoolteacher and riding back to Florida.”

    Community has always been strong in Fremont County and was there for the Over family when Jim needed medical treatment as a child.

    “Eldon Jones (the Pavillion Basketeria owner) carried us for a long time,” Ernie said. “We were at Salt Lake children’s hospital for Jim. Dad never forgot how kind Eldon was to us.”

    The Basketeria in the early 1980s – h/t Shirley Knight

    On November 1, 1992, they sold the store to Bryce Westlake.

    “I sold it three times,” Bryce said. “I ran it and lived upstairs in the apartment then sold it on contract in June of 1994. I got it back in 1996.”

    Bryce had other interests, building his Sausage Kitchen meat processing plant in Pavillion.

    “I had to hire all the help because I had the Sausage Kitchen,” Bryce said. “I went down Sunday night to do the books and do orders.”

    the new exterior is added as the Midvale Store becomes Midvale Station – h/t Ernie Over

    In 1997 he sold the store to John and Debbie Cornelson.

    Soon after they purchased the store, a car rolled through the building, killing the driver in the accident, but not hurting anyone inside.

    “It popped open the wall between the two huge braces and didn’t hit a load-bearing wall,” Ernie said.

    Kent Christianson was sitting in a chair near the pool table and left moments before the car blew out the east wall and the pool table.

    “It was the luckiest two minutes of his life,” Ernie said.

    In 2001, Bryce sold the store to Lou Rochlitz who operated it for 21 years.

    Midvale Station open for business – h/t Midvale Station

    Last year, Lou sold the store to Jack and Elaine Lackey who changed the name and the business into Midvale Station, a restaurant and bar.

    “I’m from Climax, North Carolina,” Jack said. “Elaine is from Laramie. She studied to become a mortician and worked in that field for almost 20 years.”

    The couple met in a unique situation.

    “She was on a birthday trip to Mexico,” Jack said. “I was in the US Navy, then in TV production. I worked for the PGA tour. I was their lead technical advisor and was running a golf tournament in Mexico. I met my wife, followed her home, then went to Colorado, and produced videos for Wyoming and Colorado sports.”

    Jack and Elaine Lackey – h/t Midvale Station

    Elaine started working part-time as a master brewer.

    “We came up here to take care of some family members,” Jack said. “We started looking at different buildings, the very last building on the list was Midvale.”

    They drove to Midvale, but the store was closed.

    “We saw Lou inside. He invited us in for coffee,” Jack said. “We thought this was a perfect fit for us. Now we needed to learn about the restaurant business. She was tired of being a mortician and wanted to get a brewery going.”

    Midvale Station features handmade cuisine.

    The smoker at Midvale Station – h/t Midvale Station

    “We started doing everything by hand, “Jack said. “We make our own chips, fries, and dressing. It’s what you would want to make at home if you were doing it yourself. I hated restaurant food, it came out of the freezer, straight into the frier. With the communities’ help, we wanted to give them a better option. The support of the community was the biggest part of it.”

    Jack strives to bring food from his native North Carolina to the Cowboy State.

    Jack Lackey on freezing duty Wednesday night at the smoker – h/t Midvale Station

    “I bring a lot of taste from the East Coast,” Jack said. “We do specials on Thursday. I spend a lot of time late Wednesday night at the smoker.”

    From humble beginnings in a stone house made with sand from ant hills to a thriving restaurant with plans for a full-fledged brewery on site, the Midvale Store has served the people of central Fremont County for almost eight decades and continues that service today.

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