Business helping business

By Bill Rautenstrauch, The Observer June 13, 2012 03:16 pm

Carla Sorweide, owner of Hought’s 24 Flavors on Adams Avenue, was recently the victim of a burglary that leaves the future of her business in jeopardy. BILL RAUTENSTRAUCH / The Observer
Carla Sorweide, owner of Hought’s 24 Flavors on Adams Avenue, was recently the victim of a burglary that leaves the future of her business in jeopardy. BILL RAUTENSTRAUCH / The Observer

Joe Beans Coffee starts fundraiser to assist Hought’s after thief steals money from  ice cream shop’s safe 

LA GRANDE — It’s never easy keeping a small, local business up and running and healthy but it gets much harder when someone breaks in and steals money that’s been set aside for mortgage payments and employee paychecks. 

Carla Sorweide, owner of Hought’s 24 Flavors restaurant and ice cream parlor, found that out the hard way recently but she found out something else. In La Grande, people tend to rally around their friends in need.

“This is business to business, one helping another, and I can’t even tell you how good it makes me feel,” Sorweide said Monday as she talked about the efforts of Al and Colleen MacLeod, owners of Joe Beans Coffee, to help her stay on her feet following a devastating burglary.

Sorweide, who lives in a house behind the store, said she was awakened about 4 a.m. on June 4 by the sound of a door closing and a crashing noise. She got up to investigate, and by the back door she found an air tank turned over on its side. Recalling the incident, she said she believes she almost came face-to-face with an intruder because a motion sensor light was still on when she came out.

At the time, she didn’t think to check her safe. There were no signs of forced entry and, except for the air tank, nothing looked disturbed. 

But two days later when she went to pay her bills, she found all the money in the safe had been taken –– apparently by someone with a key. Sorweide declined to say exactly how much money was stolen, but did say the amount represented about two week’s of income at the store. She reported the missing money to the police, who continue to investigate. 

Sorweide also posted a note about the heist on her Facebook page, and La Grande Mayor Daniel Pokorney happened to see it.  Pokorney is a customer at Joe Beans, and on one of his visits mentioned the incident to the MacLeods.

The MacLeods took quick action, setting out a jar to collect money for Sorweide. They also posted news of their collection efforts on Facebook. So far, people have donated about $300, and the fundraising drive continues.

“Things like this make me madder than a snake,” Colleen MacLeod said. “Carla’s just the nicest person, and such a hard worker.”

Hought’s 24 Flavors is something of a landmark in La Grande, a locally-owned, locally-operated business that harks back to a simpler time when a trip to the local soda fountain could be a cherished family event.

Clair and Helen Hought opened the store at 602 Adams Ave. in 1951, selling burgers and other fare but mostly dealing in ice cream in a wide and exciting array of flavors, from peach to rocky road and everything in between.

The Houghts closed their ice cream parlor in 1985, but didn’t sell it –– not right away. The store with all its fixtures sat empty and idle until 2004, when Sorweide stepped in to buy it. It opened under the new ownership — but under the same name — on Valentine’s Day in 2005.

Sorweide has done her all to keep Hought’s pretty much as it was back in the day, right down to the old juke box with its rock and roll tunes. The menu’s about the same as it was before, with fresh home-made burgers, curly fries, hot fudge sundaes and waffles the specialities of the house. And, of course, there’s still that wide, wonderful selection of ice cream.

Sorweide is a widow and a grandmother who puts long hours in at Hought’s, bolstering the work of five or more employees who keep the store running into the evening hours each day. Paying bills and making payroll is always a challenge, and Sorweide said she’s worried she may not survive this setback. She said her business insurance does not cover the loss.

She said she has two mortgage payments coming due soon, and other bills to pay as well.

“Wednesday’s my birthday and I can’t think of a worse thing to happen on a birthday,” she said.

For Al and Colleen MacLeod, it’s unthinkable for Hought’s to be driven out of business by a thief. They said they want to help keep that from happening.

“She’s a struggling businesswoman and she’s got a place that’s Americana from the word go,” Colleen MacLeod said, adding she that empathizes with Sorweide because someone recently broke into Joe Beans.

“It’s just unacceptable that people target these small businesses,” she said.

People wishing to donate can do so at Joe Beans at 1009 Adams Ave. Donations can also be made to Hought’s account at Community Bank.