NAF, IDAHO –As homesteaders settled here at the first of the 20th century, a business owner soon followed creating a store catering to farming families.
“It was just a feed store for the locals. It was just to take care of the locals,” said Brent “Buck” Hobson who purchased the old store in 1999.
Hobson and his wife, Terry, restored the store that’s open on weekends for hunters and travelers. Familiar with what was once known as the Naf Mercantile and Café, as a youth Brent and his parents often stopped at the store on their way to Grouse Creek, Idaho, to visit family.
The original owner also added a dance hall that Hobson plans to eventually restore as well.
“They had a rodeo on one side and the dances on the other side of the street. Then they’d have church service on Sunday morning, and everybody would then go home,” he said.
The get togethers proved a welcome relief for lonely residents. School teacher May Pierson recalled going to those dances in her 1930 autobiography entitled “A Schoolmarm All My Life: Personal Narratives from Frontier Utah” where she recalled the 1902-1903 Naf school year.
“It was very lonesome, not a young man or woman and only about 15 families. People said they poisoned any stranger who went in their midst. However, outside of being homesick, I spent a very pleasant winter, and before the winter was over, people from other districts were attending the dances at that place (dance hall), and the outside world had a very different opinion.”
The biography goes on to say that Pierson’s lively personality changed Naf’s reputation from the place where they “poisoned any strangers” to a place where “outsiders went to dance.”
Eventually the original businessman moved his store across the street placing it next to the grade school. In 1930, workers built another facility in the store’s original location. Ten years later electricity arrived in the community, and, by the 1950s, another store opened in the new building.
The new owner kept the store open off and on throughout that decade. Eventually, Uncle Sam added a post office that continued there through 1970 at about which time a telephone company established telephone service here.
Fast forward to 1999, and Brent Hobson started thinking about his golden years.
“I was looking for a place to retire, and Naf looked like a place to retire,” he said.
Hobson said the Naf store looked to be a great retirement project and investment. A week after purchasing the store, Hobson lost his job. Despite that, the Hobsons kept the store running for a year while, in the meantime, Brent took a maintenance job in Ogden.
In 2003, Brent headed to Iraq where he served as a maintenance worker contractor. He returned home in 2005, and geothermal plant officials later hired him. On his off days, Brent worked on the couple’s store.
In the meantime, California Trail and Pony Express history buffs routinely stopped by the store, reported the “Idaho Senior independent” in its Dec. 2, 2012 edition.
“We had university geology students who stayed in a field camp . . . After about three days, they wanted a hot shower, so we let them use the one in the basement. Other times, we had bicyclists who needed to get out of the rain and laid out their sleeping bags on the dance hall floor,” Terry Hobson told the publication.
Restoring that old building took work. The couple spent about 18 months repairing the facility. That October, the couple opened Buck’s Naf Mercantile and Café – just in time for deer season.
The store is open from “11 a.m. to 9ish” on Saturday, Sunday and occasionally on Monday if Brent has the day off from his full time job.
“The public access for the Sawtooth National Forest is just down the road from us, so anyone coming to hunt has to drive past the store,” Brent said.
Much of the sturdy original 1950's equipment remains at the store including a soda fountain counter, round stools and tables covered with red and white gingham tablecloths popular during the era.
The couple serves breakfast, lunch and supper. Hamburgers are their specialty. Terry often relies on a vintage French fry slicer to cut potatoes and also uses an old mixing machine for shakes.
In addition to the café, Terry also runs a boutique where she sells purses and jewelry. The family also sells sodas, chips and candy bars. Business has been good, Brent said.
“Most of the traffic are those coming from Utah going to the City of Rocks. They save 40 miles by going past the store,” he said.
Many of those passing through grew up in the region, Brent said.
“A lot of the old timers come and talk about the old dance hall and talk. They can remember the big parties and the fun they had,” he said.
Married to Terry for nearly 30 years, the couple are the parents of four children and are the grandparents of two. Since opening, the couple has hosted dances and weddings.
The original construction proved sturdy.
“The floor and ceiling are made with tongue-and-groove cedar milled locally. It’s solid,” he told the “Idaho Senior independent.”
While the store may be old and be remotely located, it offers cell phone and internet access. Visitors are often thrilled to stumble across the store as they travel by, Brent said.
“We’re the only game in town. It’s 30 minutes to the nearest town, Malta to the north or Snowville to the south. We never know what will happen day-to-day and (we) are glad to be here,” he told the publication.
Snake River News
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