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Emmaville sale brings town back to life

Hubbard County's favorite ghost town is slowly being resurrected.

The Emmaville Store, abandoned and vacant since April 2009, has been purchased.

New owners Mike and Melinda Spry are making massive repairs to the neglected building and hope to open the store and gas pumps in time for the snowmobiling season this winter.

The rest will come in time, Mike Spry said this week.

The re-opening of the self-professed "Biggest Little Town in the World" has created a buzz in the woods around the tiny town, which once boasted a population of four.

It's also creating a buzz in cyberspace on a new website dedicated to the reopening.

"There's a lot of nostalgia for this place," Mike Spry acknowledged.

He will, in answer to the most frequently asked question, renovate the quirky signs that former owner Cal Jensen installed on the property and up and down County Road 4.

The town/business is located at the junction of County Roads 24 and 4, halfway between Park Rapids and Lake George.

It will be in good company once open. The former Woodland Convenience Store in Lake George reopened last year and has revitalized that community.

That nostalgia was one reason the Sprys decided to take the gamble and re-open the store that's been an institution in Clay Township for decades.

The renovation comes 70 years after operator L.W. Cleghorn began construction of the building that stands today as the store.

It offered cabins, camp spaces, food, beer, gas and necessary items in its heyday.

"We wanted to be in the customer service business," Mike Spry said. He sold his interest in a consulting business based in Idaho and the Fifth Crow Wing couple wanted to remain in the area.

"Emmaville had a tremendous amount of potential and nostalgia that's important to the locals," Spry said.

The built-in customer base immediately responded once the store/city posted an "opening soon" sign.

Grateful neighbors stopped by to ask "When?"

"We're taking our time doing it," Spry added. "We want to do things right."

The building needs major repairs so the couple, since closing on the property last week, is attending to those first.

Eventually they will address food service.

There will be an espresso bar, Spryy said. "I guess if I had to model it on anything, I like the offerings at Bella Café," he said of the Park Rapids downtown coffee shot and eatery.

Long term, the Sprys would like to offer a unique menu, not just "hamburgers and French fries," Spry said.

The phone number is new. It's 732-8544.

"We'll be here night and day for a long time," he said.

Sarah Smith

Sarah Smith is the outdoors editor. She covers courts, business and breaking news in addition to outdoors events.

(218) 732-3364