By Dennis Peterson
North Okanogan An Online Magazine
Main Street. Two very evocative words that immediately frame a picture of Americana. Small towns where two-lane blue highways widen for a few blocks, where the smell of sage is replaced with the smell of fried chicken, pastries and fresh bread, and music comes out of open doors and windows, not the dusty speakers in your dashboard.
Twenty miles apart, more or less, these towns dot the maps of rural America like pushpins on the roads that take you home. For those few blocks the businesses brandish signs that say, “Thrift Shop, Hair Cuts, Mom’s Kitchen, Pa’s Groceries, $2.99/Gallon Gas, Rooms Available, and Cold Beer and a Burger”. One of these pushpins just might be where you grew up.
All small towns have a main street. It might be called Elm Street or Second Avenue, but no matter - it is the Main Street. And every Main Street has small and large shops and every one of those shops has a story. Some of those stories are quite special and that is the subject of this article.
Oroville, Washington. Population hovering just above zero, five miles from the Great White North on America’s Music Highway, U.S. 97 in Washington state’s largest county.
“The Okanogan,” we call it, and there is no greater pride than to be “Okanogan.” Oroville’s main street is actually called Main Street and shares asphalt with U.S. 97. Improbably we have an interstate highway, an active railroad line, an international border crossing, an international airport, and a brewery. “And that’s not all you get,” as the announcer might say.
We have The Local Granola.
That sets us apart from the other pushpins.
Melissa Jeter, owner, manager, HR director, pay master, chief cook and bottle washer had an idea. The Local Granola is the flower of that seed planted so many years ago, and it is growing in fits and starts toward the light. “Natural Foods and Consignments” is written on the door below an oval-framed daisy that looks to have shared the struggle and symbolically completes the flower metaphor. The external appearance is typical of small shops where lucky items compete for window space and your attention. Once inside, though, caring happens. But first a walk-about.
Consignment shops are unavoidably interesting because they are mostly themeless and adrift with variety at every turn. This could be the Hasegawa General Store in Hana, Hawaii, with its variety. Gemstones and jewelry, apparel and hand tools, keepsakes, bibelot, geegaws, objet d’art, curios and souvenirs abound, neatly displayed in tasteful arrangements. Natural and crafted are paired with musical instruments and colorful hats along ample wheel-chair friendly aisles, and there is a relaxed ambiance that encourages one to linger perhaps a bit long to take it all in. And then you find the back room. This room, more properly the activities room, according to Melissa, is the future.
Two features leap out at you - there is a mini-kitchen here, and there is a nice area for live music. The mini kitchen is under renovation to bring it to a commercial capability and is pivotal in Melissa’s plans for The Local Granola. And it is here that the caring mentioned earlier happens.
Imagine a small start-up on Main Street Oroville opening at the beginning of a pandemic - a time of restricted patron capacities, face masks, social distancing, breezeway air flow, and Co2 detectors. The timing was bad but the love of purpose and desire for success remains great; The Local Granola was able to provide that live music, affordable hot natural-food meals, and so much more importantly, a safe haven for, in Melissa’s words, “the troubled children of the street,” that needed a warm shelter and meal when the bitter winter blew in, and a respite from the record busting summer heat of 2021. Nobody is turned away, Melissa told me, but quickly added there are limitations, of course. The significance of this cannot be overstated and is a powerful example of a good citizen business.
The entertainment scene in Oroville has been dominated by special events and weekly jams at The Local Granola. The local musicians have reliably shown up to play for the public - there’s no fee for the audiences! And the variety included performances outside of music. Readings, poetry, and presentations of any sort are encouraged. And of course, there is a special meal prepared for those who bring their appetites to the shows. The cost of meals is covered by un-pressured donations.
There are new things coming up. Online sales are growing, storage will be offered for a very reasonable fee, more kitchen capacity is in the works, a small garden center is expanding, and refinements to the consignment space are coming. A strong leaning toward the eclectic is a fixture and an atmosphere that embraces the spirit of the beat generation up through the modern hippy culture, which pretty much means all of us, is the theme. Melissa expands that with “The Local Granola with a little bit of redneck.” ♦
— Dennis Peterson is an Oroville resident and owner of North Okanogan – An Online Magazine.
For more stories and upcoming events, see northokanogan.com.
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