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Shop with Mom and Pop

Local neighborhood markets stay homey

Once upon a time, every Bend neighborhood had its own little mom-and-pop shop. In the city’s early days, it was easy to find a small and local grocery store, café, convenience store, restaurant or gas stop.

The area around Riverside Market, for example, was a hub of mom-and-pop shops and restaurants, including the Delaware Market, Delaware Annex, Al’s Drive-In Market and Congress Market. Today, the Delaware Market is Jackson’s Corner and Al’s Drive-In has been replaced by a Walgreen’s. But even as local rent and real estate prices have soared and chain stores have boomed, a few of the mom-and-pop shops have endured, and even some new ones have popped up around town.

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Bruno’s Grocery 

1709 NE 6th Street, Bend

Bruno Tosi, originally from Pisa, Italy, and his wife Jo have been running Bruno’s Grocery for almost 40 years. The couple does everything: run the register, make pizza and sandwiches and even sweep the floors.

For the Tosis, running the store is like welcoming visitors to their home, which isn’t too far of a stretch, when you consider the Tosi’s house is attached to the side of the store. “I like my commute,” jokes Bruno. “I save on gas, time and shoes.

Known for their Italian sandwiches and take-and-bake pizza, Bruno’s also offers small grocery items, sometimes homemade. “Have I given you any of my homemade salsa this year yet?” calls Jo to customer Ben Williams, who has been frequenting Bruno’s for 15 years. “It’s made from the tomatoes I grew this summer. Also, I have some zucchini bread I baked with the zucchinis from the garden.”

“I’m probably here every day,” says Williams, who lives around the corner. “Bruno and Jo are like my favorite family. They know everyone and everything that’s going on around here.” Williams is a big fan of Bruno’s pizza. “It’s the best in town—they load it up with so many toppings and the ingredients are always fresh.”

The Tosis estimate that 90 percent of their business is from regular customers, and they tend to remember everyone’s favorite purchase. “I love this store,” says Bruno, looking around the immaculately clean and tidy space. “It’s like my extended family. “Even when families move away, they still come back and stop by to talk with us. I’ve been here so long I’m now seeing the fourth generation of families coming into this store.”

Bruno gives a wipe to the front counter, its top slightly worn from so many passes with a cloth over the decades. “When I first bought this store it was just a hole in the wall, and we’ve expanded it. Every morning I wake up and I want to get to work. I look forward to it.” .

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Tortilleria Reyes

1155 SW Division Street, Bend

On any given day, Carlos Reyes, his wife Marthe and their daughter, Laura, can be found making fresh, homemade tortillas in their bakery, which is also part of their mom-and-pop shop café. Anyone who’s a tortilla aficionado knows this is the place for the best corn or flour tortillas this side of Mexico.

The family-run store has been in business for 13 years, and started with just the tortilleria (tortilla bakery), says Laura. But customers kept asking for specialty foods from south of the border, so soon the kitchen opened, with a bakery following that, and then a butchery.

Today, Marthe is catching her breath as the lunch crowd slows. “What I enjoy most are the clients. All of them are very polite and they treat us like family.”

Says customer Roxana Ermisch,“I come here when I’m missing my home in Mexico. It always has my comfort food, carnitas especial and chili rellenos.” She points to the blackboard menu of specials, which includes such exotic delicacies as lengua (cow tongue) and birria (goat) tacos. “I can also get specific Mexican beverages like horchata, tamarind and hibiscus juice, even Mexican sodas.” Ermisch says it’s not uncommon for customers to come here to watch soccer games on television, or talk about home.

The Reyes family works long hours; every day their store is open from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m., with their café kitchen churning out meals from opening to 8 p.m. They don’t mind—the reward is in their happy customers. “Our customers are part of my family,” says Marthe. “We get invited to quinceañeras, weddings and baptisms. We share in all the big events of our families.”

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Riverside Market 

285 NW Riverside Boulevard, Bend

Bend resident Sue Fountain remembers Riverside Market fondly as the only place she and her friends could buy banana-flavored popsicles in town. It was also a place for the adults to buy gas. Today, this little neighborhood store has gotten rid of the original 1930s gas pumps, but has expanded its offerings as a café, store and community meeting place.

“This place is unique to Bend. We don’t have many little gems like this any more,” says Melanie Brent, who’s owned the store for more than five years. Her business has grown as word has spread that the Market is a great place to meet up. “We have all walks of life here,” she says. “The realtors, the business people, college students, retirees—and tourists love it too.”

Riverside Market customer Kathleen Dolan used to live in the neighborhood. She has since moved away, but she returns at least four times a week, if not every day, to meet up with friends and old neighbors. “This is my social world,” she says. “It’s a great place where everyone knows your name. I love their breakfasts so much, and when it’s sunny outside, we like to play cribbage.”

Brent says the three televisions keep the place packed during big, televised sports events, or even the presidential debates last fall. “I want to be a good neighbor here,” she says. “We host the annual Easter egg hunt for the kids, and customers have thrown their birthday parties here.” Riverside has been host to baby showers and even memorials. “I bought this store so it could be a community hub, for friends and neighbors to see each other. I want people to feel like they’re 100 percent family.”

Though you can’t buy a sandwich or a gallon of milk at Iron Horse anymore, you can find all sorts of knick-knacks and treasures, from mounted trophy moose heads to antique China sets. Swisher doesn’t like to call his place an antique store. “I’d say we have eclectic things,” he says. “I don’t want to get pigeonholed, so I just say we have everything.”

Customer Betty Dowell, 84, has been shopping at the shop since the mid-1960s, and she remembers Congress Market fondly. She and her husband met Swisher the first week he moved in because Swisher had a bench in front where the retired couple could take a rest during walks.

“Eddie was always so friendly. He’d offer us a cup of coffee or tea while we rested,” says Dowell, who still visits the store frequently. “If I miss more than two days of visiting here, Eddie will call me and make sure I’m okay.”

Swisher says it’s neighbors and customers like Dowell that keep him at the Iron Horse, plus the fun of having such an eclectic inventory. “The most bizarre item I ever had was a full human skeleton,” he says. “However, the police ended up taking it away to their lab.”

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Brothers Stage Stop 

Highway 20, 42 miles east of Bend in Brothers

There aren’t many towns that can claim to be as remote as Brothers, Oregon. That’s why the Stage Stop, which used to be a stop for the Prineville-Burns stage line, is so important to the unincorporated community. It’s a store, café, saloon and post office, all wrapped up into one small building.

Siblings Jerrie and Dixie Hana have owned the store for the last 13 years, and their home is attached to the store. As they like to say, “We’re sisters who own Brothers.” Stage Stop is one-stop shopping on a miniature scale, selling everything from aspirin and horse saddles to home-cooked meals.

On a cold, blustery day last fall, the Brothers’ one-room schoolhouse teacher, Gretchen Stack, was having breakfast with friends at one of the shop’s five tables, relishing her one-inch thick French toast with thick slabs of bacon.

“This place is so wonderful,” she says. “The homemade pies are to die for. Jerrie and Dixie are immensely important and supportive of our community. They donate their time, food and materials to this town.”

Because of the remoteness, the sisters specialize in making friendships with anyone who steps inside their creaking door. Jerrie and Dixie could care less about restaurant reviews—the Stage Stop exists solely for the regulars.

But that’s not to say out-of-towners don’t find the place. “We have a guest book that people have signed from all over the world, and all the states,” says Dixie. Dixie says they also get plenty of road cyclists in the summer—hungry guests who are particularly happy to find a home-cooked meal in the middle of the Oregon high desert.

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The Homestead Quilt & Galleries/The Red Rooster Café

51425 Highway 97, LaPine

Joseph Simpson Bogue General Store in LaPine once housed not only a grocery store, but also an ice-cream shop and deli. Today, it’s known as The Homestead Quilt and Galleries, and The Red Rooster Café.

Brenda Bell works inside the Homestead Quilt Store. “All the floors you see in here are original,” she explains. “You can still see the original freezer in back, where they used to hang meats.”

The original store owner’s home was connected to the building, and it now houses the very popular Red Rooster Café, owned by Darrell and Norma McAllister, who stay open 365 days a year. Colorful ceramic roosters decorate the six-table café. The well-worn linoleum counter seats more customers, and every regular seems to have their own reserved space.

Rosalie and Thomas Gleason have been coming to the Red Rooster almost daily for several decades, and Rosalie says as soon as the McAllisters see their car drive up, they’ve already poured the coffee into cups in front of their usual seats.

Darrell proudly points to a large framed photo on the wall, of Olympic gold medalist decathlete Ashton Eaton, a former LaPine resident. “We’re all very proud of him,” says Darrell. While Ashton will always get his choice of seats in the café, it was the King of Jordan that stunned the McAllisters in 2006, when he stopped by with his entourage.

“First the FBI came in before the King, checking out the place and all the doors. Then the King came in. I guess he bought a Harley in Bend, and was riding it around out here.” Darrell says you don’t need to be a celebrity to enjoy the Red Rooster. “No matter who you are, everyone gets the same good service and food at our restaurant.”

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