You'll find it on 10th Street

August 27, 2002 11:00 pm
Sharron Orr at the Inland Cafe welcomes regulars, like Philip Nicely, and the many visitors who venture along 10th Street. (Baker City Herald/S. John Collins).
Sharron Orr at the Inland Cafe welcomes regulars, like Philip Nicely, and the many visitors who venture along 10th Street. (Baker City Herald/S. John Collins).

By MIKE FERGUSON

Of the Baker City Herald

The along-the-highway influence is still there — the old-fashioned drive-ins, the budget motels, a garage overflowing with cars in need of a little TLC — even a brave neon sign or two.

But Baker City's 10th Street also has a well-equipped sports medicine and physical therapy practice, a stand where newfangled ice coffee drinks are blended — and an office building where a state agency and a church happily co-exist.

Years ago, when Arlo Guthrie wrote, "You can get anything you want at Alice's Restaurant," what he may have had in mind were slices of Americana like 10th Street.

"Burger Bob" Brady's family opened their drive-in restaurant July 16, 1960, as one of Arctic Circle's franchises. Since 1981 Happy Burger has been an independent purveyor of hamburgers, hot dogs and thick milk shakes.

Going independent meant Burger Bob, as he's known by practically everybody, could operate the business the way he wanted, including shutting down on Sundays and employing his four children. Working the family business has given the children both a work ethic and a comfort level dealing with the public, he says.

"There was no Campbell Street (fast food) in 1960 — only 24-hour-a-day mills and a big operation at Commercial Welding," Brady says of 10th Street's heyday.

He has customers today who remain loyal from those early days. On an average day, Burger Bob and his crew take care of 200 appetites.

Taking a cue from his father, Burger Bob splashes his political beliefs all over his business marquees. One urges a quick exit from the United Nations; the other implores Congress not to approve President Bush's Homeland Security plan.

Inside, he's got literature on what he calls the erosion of personal liberties.

But he wouldn't have it any other way.

"Dad always said it would lose him some business in the short run, but he might have a business to operate in the long run," he said.

Rob Bachman likes his 10th Street location because it provides easy access for his clients who have mobility problems.

He and fellow physical therapist Blake Marlia see between 20 and 30 patients on their busiest days.

They offer physical therapy to everyone from children to geriatrics in a modern office building they've occupied for nearly six years.

On game days at nearby Baker Bulldog Memorial Stadium — even on road trips — he makes injury assessments and, when possible, helps get injured players back into the game. During the school year, he sees many athletes during the week.

"One of the reasons I got into therapy was to maintain my enjoyment and participation in sports," he said. "We can help speed up the healing process. Players can return to the game sooner and safer."

Broadway Garage, on 10th Street

A number of the businesses on 10th Street, like the grocery and drive-through coffee house, incorporate the street's name as the business name.

So how'd a business with a name like "Broadway Garage" find its way to 10th Street?

Because Garry Hoopes' father, John, founded the business on Broadway, in the building that now houses H&R Block Income Tax Service, in the late 1940s. He moved it about 25 years ago to 10th Street, but — the importance of name recognition being what it is — never changed it to, say, 10th Street Garage.

"It confuses some people, but then again you don't need to work so hard if people can't find you," Hoopes says with a smile.

Like so much of 10th Street, Hoopes' garage is a throwback to the 1950s — parts everywhere, engine blocks competing for space with cars with their hoods thrust open.

"I more or less cater to people who don't have much money for car repairs," Hoopes said. "They've got nowhere else to go, so they come to me. I guess I'm not much of a businessman, because I don't care if I make money or not."

For years, the garage provided truck storage. These days, Hoopes says he's hoping to wind the business down. He plans to take a month vacation, but he's not sitting on some beach somewhere.

Instead, he says, he'll be driving truck for his brother.

Other 10th Street businesses continue to ask, What's in a name? For instance, there's a gal behind the Carpet Guys. In fact, there are children behind the gal behind the carpet guys.

At times with her three children in tow, Cheryl Porter works Monday through Wednesday at the business she runs with her husband, Robby. On Thursdays and Fridays, she puts in a 12-hour shift as a nurse at St. Elizabeth Health Services.

Every other weekend, she also works Saturdays and Sundays at the hospital. Do the math: Every other week, it's 12 days on, two days off.

"People think I'm crazy, but after I work at the hospital I look forward to coming here, and vice-versa," she said. "I get to do two jobs that I like."

The children chip in at the family business by dusting and vacuuming the showroom, which has been open for two years now. Son Andrew, 10, even filled out — correctly — the business' bank deposit slip this week.

Despite having a plate glass window broken by vandals in June, Porter says she enjoys her spot on 10th Street.

"It's fun just to watch the traffic go by," she said. "This place has been good for our business. We don't intend to take all the business in town — just enough to pay our bills and keep Robby busy."

The Porters have a division of labor in their business. Cheryl sells the floor treatments, while Robby and three employees install it.

Like Burger Bob, the Porters also use their marquee — not to promote political causes, but to publicize events like church fund-raisers and community happenings, such as the Shrine Game.

Many Mom and Pop shops

Owner-operater — sometimes called "Mom and Pop" — stores are common on 10th Street.

Sharron and Don Orr bought the Inland Cafe 6 1/2 years ago. They made their restaurant smoke-free even before a city ordinance required it, but they won't change their winning combination: meals tested at home and a cheery wait staff.

"That's my secret," Sharron Orr says with a smile. "Just last week we got a traveler from Colorado who ordered peach pancakes. He said they were just like his friend told him they were."

Orr says she relies on that kind of word-of-mouth advertising to supplement her cadre of regular customers.

On the wall, the Orrs pay tribute to Iva Brehmer, who operated the Blue and White restaurant where Sharron worked as a waitress for 16 years. A blue and white plate hangs over the kitchen door, with a sign honoring the restaurateur.

"She's helped us a lot," Orr says. "She showed me how to make homemade turkey noodles. That's not something you find on every menu.

"But you won't find pheasant under glass here. It's just good comfort food."

Orr creates all the specials at home. Her husband does all the maintenance that a busy restaurant requires.

In all, she's spent 32 years in the restaurant business — years spent waiting tables and meeting the public.

"I figured if I was going to wait on any more tables, I might as well own the place," she said. "You can't work in this business this long and not like people. And we've had good help. Several people have stayed with us since the day we opened. We pay them what we can, but of course, you'd like to pay them more. They're worth it."

State agency finds home on 10th

Even an agency of state government fits in the 10th Street business community. DMV East Region Manager Ruth Heaton says the Baker City site meets the needs of everyone from 16-year-olds taking their first written test to commercial truckers there to take a driving test.

The parking lot is ample, and a walled off area offers a degree of privacy for people taking the computerized tests.

But one change that people are still wondering about, she said, is the electronic sign that numerically indicates which customer is currently being served.

"We did it for privacy, and because it makes it easier for our employees to tabulate numbers at the end of the day," she said. "But in a small town, some people don't like taking a number."

Heaton says the DMV was happy at its former facility at the corporate office of Ellingson Lumber. In fact, the company made its building available in just one week's time when an emergency forced the DMV to relocate from its downtown location, she said.

But the 10th Street site has a parking lot where everything from motorcycle tests to the initial stage of a tractor-trailer test can be staged.

With its proximity to the north freeway interchange and Highway 30, the Baker City office sees its share of seasonal customers — especially during hunting season, Heaton said, but also during such community events as Miners Jubilee and the Shrine Game.

Plenty of room for newcomers

Janet Alanko is the newcomer to the 10th Street business establishment, having purchased her coffee stand with her husband earlier this month from Tom and Jodie Averett.

She also sings the praises of easy freeway access and a parking lot big enough for a truck with a cattle trailer to get in line at the window behind another car or two.

She's made minor changes — "Happy Hour" is now "Hyper Hour," and sandwiches are now on the menu.

"We're close to the hospital and the high school. It's convenient for people to have a business like this on this side of town," she said.

Alanko bought the business together with her husband, Dr. Randy Alanko, a physician who runs the Eagle Cap Clinic.

"He loves coffee," she said. "He wanted a combination coffee shop/bookstore/alpine nursery. I had to tell him one out of three is not bad."

And there's certainly room on 10th Street for two more.