Putting Mt. Hood Country Store back in peak operation

When Karen Louiselle sold the Mt. Hood Country Store four years ago, she was looking for quiet times. After 10 years running the busy store on the corner of Highway 35 and Cooper Spur Road, she was ready to spend more time in her garden and pursuing her talents in home decorating and painting.

But, Louiselle says, the universe did not cooperate.

After a deal gone bad with the new owners, Louiselle found herself owning the store again in the winter of 2000.

“It was a real black cloud time,” Louiselle says. She was faced with literally starting over; there was no inventory left, and much of the store’s equipment had vanished.

Louiselle had little choice but to roll up her sleeves and go to work.

“I decided if I had to go backwards, I was going to reinvent some things,” she says. During the 10 years she’d previously owned the store, she had implemented a small take-out deli counter and also served coffee.

Now, she decided to expand on those themes.

“I wanted to give people who live here a gathering place,” she says. She created The Good Deli in a back room of the store — expanding the deli offerings and making it a sit-down eatery. And she put in a sitting area at the front of the store, with comfortable furniture surrounding a wood stove — which has become a popular stopping place in the winter for skiers on their way down from Mount Hood. She placed antiques and artwork throughout, much of it for sale on consignment.

And she built up the store’s inventory, making it once again a viable grocery.

“People aren’t going to do their weekly shopping here,” Louiselle says. “But almost anything people forget to buy, they can get here. The store has to service that need.”

Over the course of the last year-and-a-half, Louiselle has gotten the Mt. Hood Country Store back on track and turned it, once again, into one of the hubs of the Upper Valley. Along the way she’s brought on board several invaluable employees — nearly all of them women.

“A lot of times when people come in, they’ll say, ‘This store must be run by women,’” says employee Teri Byrne, laughing. Perhaps it’s the neat, orderly shelves of food or the spotless-yet-comfy feel of the place.

“All of us here are pretty creative women,” Louiselle adds. “We want to make people feel good when they come in.” Louiselle and her employees treat everyone who walks through the door with the same warm friendliness — whether they’re long-time locals with stories to tell about the store’s olden days, or bewildered tourists lost and seeking directions.

“We get a lot of that,” Louiselle says. So many people stop in to get directions to Lost Lake that they finally got a map to give out.

Although Louiselle’s “retirement” didn’t work out quite they way she’d planned, she loves being an integral part of the Upper Valley once again.

“After I sold it, I always missed the interaction with people,” she says.

She doesn’t find any particular challenges with being a woman running a business that has been a mainstay in the Hood River Valley since around the time women gained the right to vote.

“I think just being the boss is hard, whether you’re a woman or a man,” Louiselle says. “But I think this would be a different kind of store if a man ran it.”

Despite getting back into the business under less-than-ideal circumstances, Louiselle says she’s happy to be running the Mt. Hood Country Store once again.

“I think for something to be successful, it has to be a passion,” she says. “This is a passion for me and to see it work makes me think maybe I’m doing one thing I’m supposed to be doing in my life.”

Latest stories

Latest video:

Parkdale third graders sing "12 Disaster Days of Christmas"

Welcome to your sing-able Christmas gift list. What follows is an emergency rendition of “12 Days of Christmas” – for outfitting your home or car in case of snow storm, earthquake, flood or other emergency. Read it as a simple list, or sing it to the tune of “12 Days” – you know, as in “ … and a partridge in a pear tree…” Not to make light of it, but the song is a familiar framework for a set of gift ideas that you could consider gathering together, even if the recipient already owns items such as a bunch of coats, tire chains and flashlights. Stores throughout the Gorge are stocked up on all these items. Buying all 12 days might be prohibitive, but here are three ideas for checking any of the dozen off your list (notations follow, 1-12.) The gift items needed to stay warm, dry and safe are also coded to suggest items in your abode (A) in your car (C) or both (B). 12 Gallons of Water (A) 11 Family meals (B) 10 Cans of propane (A) 9 Hygiene bags (B) 8 Packs of batteries (A) 7 Spare coats (B) 6 Bright red flares (C) 5 Cozy blankets (B) 4 Tire chains (C) 3 Flashlights (B) 2 cell phone chargers (B) 1 And a crush-proof first aid kit (B) Price ranges? Here’s a few quotes for days Three, Two, Four and Nine: n A family gift of flashlights (three will run $15-30, Hood River Supply, Tum-A-Lum) n Cell phone chargers (two will run $30-60) n Tire chains (basic set, $30, Les Schwab, returnable if unused for the winter) n Family meals ($100 or so should cover the basics for three or four reasonably well-fed days) n The home kit should be kept in a handy place near an exit, and remember that water needs to be replenished every few months. If you have a solid first aid kit already, switch out the gift idea with “and-a-sto-o-u-t- tub-for it-all …” Otherwise, it’s a case of assembling your home or car kits and making sure all members of the family know what the resources are and how to use them (ie flares and propane). Emergency situations are at worst life-threatening, at best deeply uncomfortable if you and your family are left without power for an extended period, or traveling and find yourself in a situation where you need to wait out a storm, lengthy traffic delay, or other crisis. Notes on the 12 gift ideas: 12 – Gallons of water: that’s one per person in a four-member family to last for three days, the recommended minimum to be prepared for utility outages. 11 – Easy-open packaged goods, energy bars, dried food and nuts are good things to include for nutrition. Think of what your family of four needs for three days to stay fortified and hydrated (see number 12). Can-opener also recommended 10 – If you have a propane camping stove, keep extra fuel handy. 9 – Hygiene bags: put packaged moistened towelettes, toilet paper, and plastic ties in large garbage bags (for personal sanitation) Resource list courtesy of Hood River County Emergency Management, Barbara Ayers, manager/ 541-386-1213. The county also reminds residents to Get a Kit, Make A Plan to connect your family if separated, and Stay Informed. See www.co.hood-river.or.us to opt-in for citizen alerts. Enlarge

Log in to comment

News from our Community Partners