DAYVILLE — The owner of the Dayville Mercantile would like to be celebrating the historic store’s 125th anniversary, but instead he finds himself fighting to stave off foreclosure.
Founded in 1896, the Old West-style emporium is one of the oldest continuously operating stores in the state, but it might not hold that title much longer: Scott Knapp, who took over ownership of the Dayville Merc at the start of 2020, could be forced to close up shop after representatives of the Graves Family Trust, the store’s previous owners, implemented foreclosure proceedings in July.
Up until then, according to Knapp, he had been making interest-only payments to the Graves family, an arrangement he worked out after his restaurant hood-cleaning business — which he was using to subsidize the Merc — was forced to shut down for a time because of COVID-19.
Knapp said that the Graves family chose not to renew the interest-only payment plan after June. Instead, he said they offered him $50,000 to take the Merc back. Knapp called the offer an insult, considering he has spent $200,000 of his own money to keep the historic general store open.
Graves Family Trust attorney Douglas J. Raab did not immediately respond to the Eagle’s request for comment for this story.
However, the trust has been publishing a paid advertisement in the newspaper as part of the foreclosure process. The ad states that Knapp still owes $489,258.58 on the property, plus interest and past-due payments dating back to February.
If the balance due is not paid in full, along with foreclosure costs and attorneys’ fees, the ad states that the Merc will be sold at auction on the steps of the Grant County Courthouse on Dec. 3.
Knapp told the Eagle that seeing the Merc put up for sale has tested him personally because he and his father both live on the property.
Knapp said his family lost their home east of Eugene during the 2020 Holiday Farm Fire, which ranked among the largest wildfires in Oregon’s history.
“That was the point (after the Holiday fire) that I decided that we were going to fight for what was ours,” Knapp said. “The Merc is our home.”
Knapp said it is important to note that the Graves family — specifically Jay Graves, who Knapp referred to as the family patriarch — worked with him in the beginning. But when they decided not to renew the interest-only payment plan, Knapp said, they left him with no other choice but to file for Chapter 13 bankruptcy.
Chapter 13 bankruptcy, which is referred to as a “wage earner’s plan,” allows people with regular income to develop a plan to repay all or part of their debts. Under this chapter of the U.S. Bankruptcy Code, debtors propose a payment plan to make installments to creditors over three to five years.
Knapp said he had signed a five-year plan with the state, protecting his assets and businesses, including the Merc.