SARGENT – When asked for last names, Mike and Julie of Mr. Rudy’s Mercantile in Sargent said that wouldn’t be necessary, because, “Everybody know us.”
The pair has spent the better part of the last three years flipping their renowned restaurant into a general store. “We had been talking about it for quite a while,” Mike says of the renovation, “Just doing something different. And Julie actually came up with the idea of a store for stuff that you just can’t get locally around here.”
Their hard work, from firsthand experience, has already paid immense dividends. The transformed general store blooms with scents, dances with color, and hums with voices. Buckets of natural, handmade soap bars cluster around an orderly prism of scented candles. Ball jars of jam humbly present their fruits in permanent marker, huddling in a basket where nearby, a wall of clocks makes its rounds.
“If there’s anything that people would like to see us start carrying, we’ll start carrying those. We get suggestions all the time,” Julie says as we sit at a picnic table behind the store.
“Boot laces,” Mike lobs, “Somebody asked for bootlaces.”
“Suspenders,” Julie counters.
Residents’ suggestions continue to ricochet off the patio’s fence, mural of Mr. Rudy, and brand new greenhouse without end: bread, bicycle tubing, homeopathic medicine, and even beer, though Mike is stalwart in keeping Mr. Rudy’s tapless. “One bar is enough for this town.”
Needless to say, it seems Sargent as a whole has been supportive of the transition. “I think the community’s been great,” Julie says. “Now we hope that people will come out and give us a serious look, because we really do have something for everyone.”
Not only are Mike and Julie concerned for the needs of each person, but for each season as well. “We’re going to be building an area out here for a farmer’s market,” Julie says, motioning to the gravel around a sleeping bulldozer, “it’ll have more shade.”
“Once the plants are out,” she continues, “we’re hoping to use the greenhouse for fall. We’ll have pumpkins and things like that too.”
With the figurative everything, and literal some things, under the sun, the real magic seems not in transforming Mr. Rudy’s from restaurant to mercantile, but where to find the space, until resident project magician Julie reveals a trade secret: “We learned the power of peg hooks.”