Photo © Jason Lugo

Editors note: Story corrected Feb. 13, 2012 –

More than one person looked at the 20 years worth of debris stacked inside the old Hill City Store and Saloon and said it wasn’t worth fixing up.

Photo © Jason Lugo

Austin Jacobs, Ione Kaylor and Mark Kerner bring the old Hill City Store back to life.

It would cost more than it was worth in time, talent, hassle…. Ione Kaylor heard it all. She didn’t care. Despite the fact there were plenty of people in her life who thought she was crazy to even try to make the old building into anything more than a broken down shed, she was determined to make it work.

They underestimated Kaylor’s will to make it happen. Really, it was more of a drive.

“Once we started, we couldn’t step back,” Kaylor said. “We’d stop and go into town for lunch and everybody would ask us what we were up to. Everybody was expecting it.”

The project of restoring the 100-year-old business started last summer. The building’s owner, Rollie Bennett is a friend of Kaylor’s. When he retired after nearly 30 years as the Camas County Clerk, he told her he had two goals. He wanted to restore a 1923 International pickup and open the store.

Mark Kerner, Kaylor’s boyfriend, looked at the pickup. A Shoshone dairyman with a passion for mechanics and old cars, he could get the vehicle running. No problem. The building – that was a different story.

“I kept saying, ‘There ain’t no way. It’s too far gone’,” Kerner said.

Kaylor put on her work gloves and started hauling loads of garbage to the dump. The initial plan was for her daughter to manage the bar and store, but even she threw in the towel. Kaylor kept digging. She filled dumpster and dumpster – including 14 in a weekend – before they could start basic repairs. The plumbing needed redone, new lumber, propane lines reworked, insulation. Every weekend, evenings and holidays Kaylor and every friend or family member in the area would work, clean, plumb, paint, hammer – whatever was needed. A few walked away shaking their heads, but most stayed and came back the next day.

Photo © Jason Lugo“Every time we needed help, we didn’t have to ask, it just showed up,” Kaylor said.

It wasn’t without a few surprises. Two winter parkas had been stowed in ice chests. An old candy counter in need of new glass, old metal advertising signs — about a foot of bat guano supported by an old roof tin. In the corner of the store where the old Hill City Post Office still supports old combination mail boxes, it was as if time stopped. There were stamps and papers stacked and ready for the next day’s work. Mail still in the boxes. In the cash register: $30.

Mike Menkee was one of those friends who started at the beginning and never left.

“I can be part of this,” Menkee said. He said after a bad day, he can turn toward Hill City instead of heading directly home. Once he’s here, the worries are gone.

“I like it at the end of the road. I like the personal bar. Everybody comes here because it feels like home.”

Photo © Jason LugoThe shelves are stocked with grocery basics as well as locally raised produce (in season) and arts and crafts from area artisans. In keeping with the family atmosphere, she always has a Crockpot full of warm food so when neighbors stop in they can get a bite to eat. This summer, Kaylor is hoping to host farmers markets outside and have local artists working near the store.

“Everyone has to bring a little of themselves in here,” Kaylor said.

Kaylor said she’ll try to keep the store open seven days a week. Sometimes she has to close up to head into town for supplies or maybe to have dinner with friends. She’ll always leave a note in the door – she’ll be right back.

About the author

Karma Metzler Fitzgerald - Contributor Karma Metzler Fitzgerald spends the bulk of her time traveling up and down Highways 93 and 75. It would be romantic to say she is always in search of compelling feature stories and profiles of the fascinating humans that inhabit this beautiful valley of ours. That, however, would be a lie. She is most likely transporting children to various sport and music events, school functions and occasional trips to doctors, orthodontists, and the feed store. In the process, she comes across a great story ideas, which she vows to write at the first available moment. Those moments are few and far between, but when they come she prefers to send them to Southern Idaho Living. Karma lives just north of Shoshone, with her husband, 3 children, 25 chickens, several thousand cows and a cat who thinks it’s a dog.

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5 comments

Wow, now that is determination! Great Job!

This is a great story of what can happen when a woman gets her mind set on something! Loved it! Planning a trip up there come spring and looking forward to stopping to see the old place. I just love fixer upper stories!

Great article but, Hill City is run solely by Ione Kaylor…..not to diminish Mike’s contribution. He was tireless in the restoration effort but, it’s clearly Ione’s place. She’s the heart and soul of Hill City and a great hostess. Stop in on your way to or from Sun Valley…..it’s a place frozen in time and it feels like home.

I’m looking forward to enjoying an ice cold tasty beverage at this place when I move to Idaho this summer.

I adore what these wonderful folks have done with this charming little store – and Ione – well she is a true beauty – yummm – I almost asked her to marry me the first time I saw her !! I always stop here on my way to and from Boise – the local Camas honey is delicious – and the gift baskets of goodies that Kate sells, wow, they make perfect presents – very original – and uniquely appreciated. Lon Zeman