INDEPENDENCE — Bodie Bemrose remembers riding his bike to Taylor’s Fountain on Main Street in Independence when he was growing up on his family’s farm in Buena Vista.
When he arrived, he had a tough choice to make, at least in kid world: “I just get enough change to either buy a milkshake or a comic book,” Bemrose said. “I would always go for the comic book so I could bring something home with me.”
Though he does remember a time or two when he elected to have something sweet.
“I remember having, I still to this day have never had one like it, a homemade cherry Coke,” he said. “It just tasted different.”
Now the building that used to be home to the long-running business means more to him than milkshakes and memories. Bemrose bought and has been restoring the space that is still known as Taylor’s Fountain. He likes it that way.
The Taylor’s Fountain sign will remain on the building, even as it being outfitted to suit a new business preparing to move in this fall, Jubilee Dessert House & Champagne Bar.
“Even though it’s not going to be Taylor’s, the old neon sign, it’s iconic. It’s going to stay there,” Bemrose said.
Thanks to a twist of fate, the restoration has a connection to one of families that operated Taylor’s.
Rick Taylor, the son of co-manager Dick Taylor, built a sawmill across the road from Bemrose’s parents old farm.
“I called him after I purchased the building, to get his family history with the building, and I wanted to see if he could help provide the lumber for the project,” Bemrose said.
Tree lumber from Rick Taylor’s farm and sawmill provided new beams for the building and material needed to re-create old details of the original building.
“All these storefronts, the lumber, and these beams come from Rick’s tree farm,” Bemrose said. “He logged all these old growth fir logs and milled them into dimensional lumber.”
Bemrose took that to a specialty mill cut into pieces that could be used to rebuild the storefronts, which had been hidden for decades.
“We luckily had great photographs,” Bemrose said.
An award-winning expert at restoration of historic structures and something of an Independence historian, Bemrose wants to bring back some of the former glory of the town. He recently completed a project down Main Street from Taylor’s, the Cooper Building, with won the Oregon Main Street Award and Oregon Heritage Excellence Award in 2016.
“Now we’re turning the corner and we are bringing Independence back.”
“If we could just get back to the way things used to be, then the town is going to thrive because it was thriving then.”
Taylor’s Fountain had a 60-year run as a pharmacy, general store and fountain and café.
Halcyon Sell, then married to Dick Taylor, moved to Oregon with her husband and their infant daughter in 1946 to run the store with his brother, Dee. The brothers’ parents, Ed and Leila Taylor, brought the store and turned it over to their sons to operate, Sell said.
Sell was 19 at the time her family moved to Oregon. Now she is 92 and is quick to recall the details of the early days of Taylor’s Fountain. She helped Dick and Dee with the operations, as did many members of both families.
“The wages were very poor,” Sell said, smiling. “I wasn’t paid.”
Earlier this month, Bemrose invited Sell, Rick Taylor and his sisters Laura Dilley and Janet Taylor to visit the building as the restoration, that started in the summer of 2016, was nearing completion.
As they toured the building, family members recalled events from Taylor’s, such as the time an unfortunate would-be burglar tried to break in through a roof hatch and fell through the ceiling.
His bad night got worse when he tried to escape through the back door, right where the police officer working the night shift happened to be, Rick Taylor said.
They talked about former employees, and the regulars who had their designated stools at the bar. Laura Dilley, one of Dick’s three daughters who worked in the store, even remembers some of their orders, including that of long-time resident Al Opplinger.
“Al Opplinger always ordered a glass of milk and what?” Rick Taylor asked.
“Just a glass of milk,” Dilley said. “He came in the afternoon: ‘Glass of milk please.’”
The youngest of the siblings, Rick Taylor didn’t work in the store. His parents divorced when he was about 10 and he moved to Central Oregon.
“I’m a late in life baby, so they all worked in her through high school and they all went to Central,” Rick said. “They had more time in here than I did, but I was here every day from the time I could ride my bicycle down here.”
His favorite item on the menu?
“I know it sounds gross, but I would come down here and have a bowl of oyster stew,” Rick said.
Janet Taylor recalled what became a beloved tradition for her: working on Christmas morning.
“We would open at 8. You would be surprised how many people came to buy their presents on Christmas morning,” she said. “We would be open, and we would be busy. We would be wrapping them as fast as we could. I have a really good memory of that because it was like being involved with the whole town on Christmas and helping them get their gifts.”
Dee Taylor took over total operations in the early 1970s after Dick Taylor moved out of state. The pharmacy closed in the mid-1980s after Dee died.
Taylor’s Fountain closed in October of 2006. At the time, Dee Taylor’s wife, Marjorie, and daughter Billie K. Herrell operated the store and fountain.
Janet Taylor, who now lives in Ashland, said returning to the building was nostalgic, even though much has changed.
Or at least changed form.
Bemrose saved some of the wood from the old beams and has turned them into new hardwood floors.
“It is a labor of love. We utilize everything that we possibly can that’s original,” Bemrose said. “That’s why when you come in, it’s like a time capsule.”
Bemrose said the building, constructed in 1884, was on the verge of needing to be torn down when he purchased it in 2016. It had been empty since 2006 and was quickly falling into disrepair.
He had to make structural repairs, such as replacing the steel columns for the storefronts, installing new concrete foundations and major brick foundation repairs.
More than two years later, the building has new life, and soon, a new tenant.
Dana Heuberger, the owner of Sugar, Sugar, a cupcake, cake and candy store in Salem, was in Independence picking up toffee from the Melting Pot in the Cooper Building.
“I saw the Taylor’s Building on the corner and it said ‘for lease,” she said.
At the time, her friends were looking for a second location to open a breakfast place. She thought the former Taylor’s would be the perfect spot. She called her friends about the location, but it didn’t work out.
After that fell through Bemrose and Heuberger talked about setting up the location for her. She had been looking for a location to build a kitchen and open a second business.
Bemrose would install a kitchen that would serve the new business, and Sugar, Sugar. Heuberger said she didn’t think she could swing the lease.
“Unless you want to give me a sweet, sweet deal,” Heuberger said. “So, he did for the first year, we worked something out so we both could do it.”
The front part of the Jubilee will serve desserts and be a family-friendly environment. It will expand upon the menu that has been successful at Sugar, sugar.
“I wanted to do tarts and other cakes and more desserts stuff that you just can’t get everywhere,” Heuberger.
The back of the building will be transformed into a Champagne bar and private event space.
“I always wanted to do a Champagne bar somewhere,” Heuberger said. “Sparkling wines and Champagnes are trending right now, and I don’t think they going to go away now that they are here.”
She said she wants to create an ambiance in the Champagne bar that would make it a good spot for a girls night out or date night. Heuberger doesn’t have a definitive open date yet, but it should be this fall.
“It’s going to be soon,” she said. “Hopefully before the holiday season.”
Bemrose described the Jubilee to the Taylor family on their visit. Janet Taylor said the first business in the building since Taylor’s will, in a way, fill something of the same role Taylor’s Fountain did in its time.
“It’s sort of carrying on, kind the updated version of the soda fountain for these days,” she said. “Like a coffee house with dessert.”
“It’s all ages — kids, grandma and grandpa, high school dates,” he said. “They haven’t had something like that around here in a long time that all ages can go to.”