Ronda Fry stands by the Grampa Jims sign painted by Fry, niece Beth Parmer and great niece Kaylee Parmer. Photo by Linda Grismore
After retiring from FSA in Corydon after 23 years, five months later, Ronda Fry’s husband Richard Fry passed away suddenly. After some time had gone by and with no traveling plans, Fry wondered what she could do to keep herself busy.
The answer came after Suzanne Wetterling decided to get rid of her building and Fry showed an interest in buying it. As it turned out, Sam Langtry had gifted the building to Wetterling, so Wetterling decided to gift it to Fry. “That was really cool,” said Fry. “I couldn’t believe it, I was just like wow!”
Langtry’s vision was to see all the buildings in Humeston having businesses in them, rather than sit there empty and fall apart.
Fry and niece Beth Parmer decided to go into business together. “I was originally going to go into business by myself, until we go into it a little bit,” said Fry. “My niece was helping with the décor, paint choices and stuff because she is really good at things like that.
“I knew she was going to be my back up and as we got into it she got more excited to. We really hadn’t got started on anything except the demo, when she said she would really like to be a part of it. I thought cool, because I think we could both use it.”
At the time, the two didn’t really have a plan. According to Fry they were going to fix the building.
They decided to get to work doing a little renovation on the building or so they thought.
“We decided to go with a rustic look,” said Parmer. “How much work could that be? Well needless to say, the little bit of renovation has become a major renovation!”
The construction started with the roof. When they first got the building, they found out right away that when it rained, it was like a waterfall in the back room, with major leaks in the ceiling throughout. “We would have one little shower and the whole thing would be water all over the floor, so we knew the roof had to be the first thing,” said Fry.
The two hired Ivan Stolfus to come in and put a commercial coating on. As it was getting cold out, they really wanted to get the ball rolling.
“The first warm day, they were there working on it,” said Parmer. “He and his crew were great.”
Once the leaks were stopped, it was time to deal with the electricity. They hired Larry Jones to come in and get the electricity connected.
Next they started gutting the inside of the building. The two said they had amazing volunteers helping them with the project.
“Garrett and Jennifer Hitt, Alan and Rita Hitt, Aaron Parmer, Andy Horton, Cale Hitt, Kaylee and Luke Parmer and Brett Leer all chipped in to help us out,” said Parmer. “I am sure they were super excited to be there on their weekends!”
After they got the building gutted, they discovered that the ceiling joists were in pretty bad shape. They decided they better bring in an expert, so they hired Tyler Wilson.
“He became our carpenter and probably has regretted it every day since,” laughed Parmer.
“He’s done a great job,” said Fry. “He’s been great to have. We weren’t sure we would be in business until Christmas, but with his help hopefully we will be in business by mid May.”
Wilson had to start by installing a large beam to make sure the roof would be able to hold up the weight of a big snow.
After the beam, came the ceiling, dressing room and the walls. When Wilson got the walls studded they had Jay Williams put spray foam insulation in.
For the ceiling, they found a guy from Creston on Craig’s List that had sheets of old corrugated tin that they bought.
Fry said her grandson, Justin Horton, her great niece and nephew Kaley and Luke Parmer, sister-in-law Rita Hitt, Parmer and herself all drove to Creston to get the tin.
“We went out on the coldest day of the year I think,” said Fry. “It was maybe six degrees, the wind was blowing with snow flurries. It was so cold getting the tin, our hands were frozen and we couldn’t wait to be done.”
After they got this all finished, came the drywall and the paint. “Once again, Jennifer and Cale Hitt and Kaylee Parmer were there volunteering their time to help us paint,” said Parmer.
When it came to the floors, they wanted to keep the original hardwood, but after a couple of people went through the floor, they decided to bring in the experts at Horton Floor Covering to install a much safer new floor for the customers. The floor at this time is not finished, but will have laminate tile on it that will match the rustic look throughout the store.
The light fixtures are original to the store.
Fry and Parmer want to be more than just a clothing store, they want to offer a variety, from clothing to canned jellies and jams, salsa and candy that Fry said she used to be able to get when she was younger.
“I always had a little bit of an idea what I was interested in,” said Fry. “Something a little bit country, like the Harvest Barn, Cracker Barrel or the Machine Shed.
“I always loved those little gift shops and thought it would be fun to have a store with the fun type stuff in it, not just clothing.”
Parmer said they needed to name the store and wanted it to be something that had meaning for both of them. “We had lost some very special people in our lives,” said Parmer. “Grandma Marilyn and Grandpa Jim Hitt. They were always there for us, keeping us all entertained.”
Fry said Grampa Jim came about when her dad became a grandparent. “It was like you have all these other grandparents and how do you keep them straight,” said Fry. “Anyway, somebody just called him Grampa Jim one day. I really liked it, but I didn’t know why at the time, but I really liked the sound of it.”
“Grampa was ornery, but the best dad and grandpa that anyone could have asked for, so we decided to name it Grampa Jim’s,” said Parmer.
“With that being said, he would be wondering why we would name the store that, but since he isn’t here, I guess he won’t complain too much.”
Fry and Parmer are currently trying to get their entire inventory in and ready so that they can open sometime in May. “We wanted to do something fun that would offer something different from Snyder’s and Sweet Southern Sass. That’s harder to do than you would think, since Snyder’s have everything,” laughed Parmer.
The store will be carrying clothes, jewelry, home décor, and fun food mixes like beer bread, dips and cheesecakes. They will also be carrying some jams, jellies, salsa and old-fashioned candy.
“I really wanted candy that I remember as a child,” said Fry. “I remember taffy called Kits, they came in little square pieces and BB Bats which were the same thing, but they came on a stick. They had strawberry, vanilla, chocolate and banana. Those were my favorite.
“There are so many, like Chuckles and Chiclets Gum. Clove, Teaberry and Blackjack gum are a little tougher to find and you can only buy in limited amounts. I can remember Circus Peanuts and Mary Jane’s, a peanut butter molasses candy.”
Fry said her parents had owned a grocery store for a few years with her aunt and uncle in LeRoy when she was about four or five. “Those are the kind of candies I remember,” said Fry.
“I have also found a website that has cotton candy. In time we will see what goes and what doesn’t and change that up a little bit if necessary.”
Fry said she had just talked to a Watkins representative, so they will be carrying some Watkins products. “I am not sure which products we will have, it will be kind of a surprise, so everybody is just going to have to come see us!”
As far as the clothing line goes, Fry said she is going to leave that up to Parmer, as she has a teenage daughter and they are more of the fashion people and she is more of a blue jean person. Parmer will also be in charge of the jewelry.
“We will be offering gift baskets that we will deliver in the Humeston area as well,” said Fry. “We will customize gift baskets for special occasions, such as birthdays, Valentine’s Day and Christmas."
When asked besides the obvious, what her ultimate goal was for the store, Fry answered, “To have fun, plenty of fun. I told Beth as long as I can still go to Florida for about a month every February, I am good. I will be there all the rest of the time to help!
“We have started a Facebook page called Grampa Jim’s. We will be posting the opening date and some of our products we will have available.”
With the impending opening of the store, Fry said that she and Parmer having lived in Humeston all their lives just want to give back to the community the way they have been so blessed with.
“We have such a great little town that offers so much,” said Parmer. “With the Library, fitness center, bank, grocery store, swimming pool, restaurants and the list goes on and on. We just want this to be another reason for people to be proud of this town and to give even more people another reason to come visit Humeston.”