Building, family get new lease on life

Written by Bill Rautenstrauch, for WesCom News Service March 26, 2014 08:11 am

Sugar Shack proprietor Kim Reece gets a batch of maple bars going during work last Thursday. Reece and her father, Chuck Rogers, opened their donut shop, The Sugar Shack, in the old building that’s been home for many small businesses through the years. (BILL RAUTENSTRAUCH photo)
Sugar Shack proprietor Kim Reece gets a batch of maple bars going during work last Thursday. Reece and her father, Chuck Rogers, opened their donut shop, The Sugar Shack, in the old building that’s been home for many small businesses through the years. (BILL RAUTENSTRAUCH photo)
 

An aged and crumbling building at the corner of Spruce Street and Monroe Avenue has a new business future, thanks to the efforts of a daughter-father team with lifelong roots in La Grande.

On March 10, Kim Reece and her father, Chuck Rogers, opened their donut shop, The Sugar Shack, in the old building that’s been home for many small businesses through the years and last housed a used appliance store and repair shop. 

Over a period of 18 months, they remodeled the structure inside and out, until finally it bore no resemblance to its former self. It’s got a log exterior, rustic décor and spacious seating inside, and it’s well-equipped to turn out donuts by the single serving or by the dozen.

Reece provided what she laughingly calls “slave labor,” while Rogers, an expert woodworker, did the carpentry work.

“I always wanted to do a building like this,” Rogers said. “It’s one of those things where you start in, keep going and see what happens.”

After the woodworking, a coterie of local companies joined in to help make a finished product. Jack Rudd did the plumbing, Johnson Electric the electrical work, and Blue Mountain Air the heating and air conditioning systems. Wood for the project was purchased from local lumberman Rod Ledbetter.

Rogers was raised in La Grande and worked many years locally as a logger. He remembers the 1950s and 1960s when the building housed Bradford’s, a gas station and convenience store. 

A succession of small businesses followed after Bradford closed shop.

Rogers said county tax records on the building go back to 1928, but he believes it’s much older than that.

“We found square nails, and that means it’s at least century,” he said.

Reece is a 1990 La Grande High School graduate who went to work at the Flying J truck stop a few years after high school. She ended up staying there 18 years.

She said that after she quit her Flying J job, she didn’t have a clear idea of a next career move. The building at Spruce and Monroe had been in the family a couple of years, but she and her dad didn’t know exactly what they wanted to do with it.

Reece started asking around, trying to find out what kind of business local folks would most like to see start up in La Grande.

“Everybody said a donut shop or a bowling alley,” she said. A bowling alley was out, but a donut shop was doable and a good fit given Reece’s years of experience in food service at the Flying J. She said she’s a people person.

“I’m the kind who wants to know about people and their kids and grandkids,” she said.

Once the decision to start a donut shop was made, Reece and her father stepped up their renovation efforts, finally bringing in furnishings and equipment including a commercial-grade oven, freezers and a four-compartment sink. For extra amenities, they added a television and Wi-Fi.

And all the while, they did paperwork, lots of it, applying for all the city, county and state permits they needed for the planned March 10 opening.

“It was a mad dash to get everything ready on time,” Reece said. 

Donuts, scones and maple bars are the main attraction at The Sugar Shack, though there is a breakfast menu that includes biscuits and gravy, and a lunch menu featuring cold sandwiches.

At present, Reece and Rogers are the shop’s two main employees, with help from Reece’s son, Dyllan, and her mom, Shirley Rogers. Reece said that in the future she hopes to build the business into a place that provides some jobs for other people.

She said business has been good in the early going, and improved after Carla Sorweide, owner of Hought’s 24 Flavors downtown, posted news about The Sugar Shack on Facebook.

“That was very generous of her. People started learning about us one by one, and more started coming in. The community’s been so good to us, so supportive,” Reece said.