Turning corner for new school

MARYSVILLE – Dave Rohde has been a customer at Hunter’s Corner Service ever since he was 6 or 7 years old. He used to ride his bike up to the grocery store and gas station with a group of childhood buddies.

“I used to buy my soda pops and wind up airplanes there,” Rohde said of the business on 84th Street NE.

When Rohde was 14 years old, Russ Hunter, owner of the store at that time, gave him his first charge card.

“It came in handy when I was 16 and started driving,” Rohde said.

The boy used it to buy gas for his lawn mower as he went around cutting grass for neighbors.

Hunter’s Corner is where Rohde, now 46, still goes every day to get his coffee.

But Rohde will have to savor his memories and his last sips of java today when the grocery store and gas station closes after being in business since 1935.

Owners Melinda and Shannon Ramey hope customers write out their stories ; stories like Rohde’s; and bring them to an open house planned for 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday.

The Rameys sold the gas station, grocery store and surrounding 1.4 acres to the Marysville School District. The site will likely be the student entrance to Marysville Getchell High School, scheduled to open in 2010.

“The store purchase was just a natural purchase,” said John Bingham, capital projects director for the school district.

Work will likely start with logging in the late fall. Building will begin in summer 2008.

“It’s debatable about whether the shop will come down,” Bingham said.

Neither the Rameys nor the school district staff knows. It depends on the cleaning of the site and the tanks.

“We are required to turn over to them a clean site,” Shannon Ramey said. The gas station has relatively new pumps and tanks, so Ramey doesn’t anticipate any problems.

Bingham has been around Marysville all his life and is somewhat of a history buff of the area.

“I’ve been there quite a few times,” he said of Hunter’s Corner Service.

Although he see the gas station closing and perhaps coming down as a little different from old buildings brought down years ago, he doesn’t know how people will feel.

The store property has plenty of tales to tell from the last century. Bessie Ashmun, a logging-country school teacher, bought about 15 acres of land at Getchell in 1911. She had been injured in a train accident, and the money for the land purchase came from her insurance settlement.

During the Depression, Bessie and her husband, Russ “Pappy” Hunter, and their two sons and daughters lost almost everything, including an Arlington trucking business. The family moved to Winlock, where Pappy Hunter worked as a logger, before returning to their Getchell property with the little cabin on it.

As that family grew, they raised chickens and livestock and worked a large garden on the property along 84th Street.

The farm became popular with travelers. Drivers heading up the steep Getchell Hill would run out of gas and stop to ask Pappy Hunter if he could help them. The idea for a gas station came to fruition and three generations have run the business over the last 70 years.

The property burned down in 1952, and Russ Harvey Hunter came home from a job in Alaska to help the family recover from the loss. He was instrumental in starting the Getchell Fire Department, which served the community for almost 50 years. At one time he served as fire chief.

When the business was up and running again, the younger Hunter opened an automotive mechanic repair business. He married Rose Haaland, a neighbor farm girl, in 1956. She lives on the property today.

The couple and their three daughters ran the store and all worked behind the counter. There were no regulations at that time about who could and couldn’t sell and buy cigarettes.

Russ Harvey Hunter and his wife began looking for a buyer for the store when he turned 70. Their daughter, Melinda, and her husband, Shannon Ramey, stepped up and have run the family business since 1993. Russ Harvey Hunter died in 1999.

The Rameys had previously considered selling the business. Although he and his wife own the store, Shannon Ramey also owns and operates Rampart Engineering, a residential remodeling design business.

With new construction all around them and new roads, it’s time for them to shut up shop.

“The whole culture is changing,” Shannon Ramey said. People used to go to bars and smoke; now there are no-smoking laws. The new community centers are coffee houses, he added.

People still want a familiar experience: that burger drive-thru, that corner store.

“But it’s not as valued as it used to be,” he said.

The family will maintain their homes on the remaining 2.5 acres. “Plenty to garden and weed,” Melinda Ramey said.

Rose Hunter says that she will probably have withdrawals from the business, even though her role has been minimal the past 10 years.

“It is time to move on,” Rose Hunter said. “I have no regrets in that manner.”

Customers, though, have been a little shocked to hear that the business is closing, Melinda Ramey said.

“It will be very sad,” she said. “I’ll miss the customers. Some have threatened to come to the house with their coffee.”

Rohde, like many other customers, plans to attend the open house. He lives in the immediate area of the store. His family has a beautiful view of the mountains but they will be moving any day now toward Granite Falls to acreage where there is room for their animals. Rohde said he just sold his family’s property to Harbour Homes.

New construction, both residential and commercial, has been booming in Marysville during the past few years.

“We fully expected it to make Highway 9 but not this quick,” Rohde said. “I guess it’s the inevitable. It’s not the same town I grew up in.”

Rohde said he’ll have to find a new place to get his morning coffee or that gallon of milk his wife might need at the last minute.

“We don’t know where the heck we’re going to go,” Rohde said.

Christina Harper is a Snohomish County freelance writer. She can be reached at harper@heraldnet.com.

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