Volunteers scampered around the back room of the Historic Butteville Store, getting ready for another busy Saturday.
Some were bringing in fresh-cut flowers, with matching vases, while others were making sandwiches or cutting lemons for fresh lemonade. The scene is exactly what makes the Butteville store different from pretty much every other store in Oregon – it’s a labor of love by volunteers and those that appreciate its historic significance.
The store, which is more than 149 years old and the longest continually active store in Oregon, is at the end of the Champoeg bike trail, and is one of the only old buildings left of Butteville. Over the years the store has transformed into a wonderful place that is great for an afternoon lunch or even just a quick stop to learn about history of this once very busy town.
The store is an Oregon State Heritage Site and is operated by the Friends of Historic Champoeg. All proceeds from the sale of just about everything in the store benefit educational and interpretive programs and Champoeg State Park, which is conveniently just a few miles down the road.
The store is stocked full of mostly-local products (some California wines are available but are being phased out), and everything served is homemade or Oregon based.
“We come in every single day and make everything from scratch,” says Pat, the acting manager, and Makinzie, the acting assistant manager. “We work together with the state and our volunteers and it has been a really beneficial partnership. The volunteers that work here are awesome. We have a great team.”
But this isn’t Pat’s first time at the store, having grown up in Hubbard, a few miles away, she worked at the store in 1983 and 1984. So she appreciates the half-dozen local volunteers’ effort even more, having seen the store go through its transition. The store itself is a non-profit organization, so the prices are very reasonable and you know that the money you spend is going to a good cause – and you can see it in full swing at the Champoeg State Park.
“We tell everyone that if they are visiting here, they should take the time to go to Champoeg Park, because while we have a little history, they can really get a feel of what the valley was like in 1863 over there,” they said.
There are many special events that take place at the store during the spring and summer months, so Pat highly suggests visitors call ahead to see what is going on and to reserve a seat prior to the festivities.
My personal favorite is the Saturday Suppers, where you get the best local chefs, ingredients and music, all in one place. While the musical selections are usually more bluegrass, several of the acts come dressed in pioneer clothing and put on a foot-tapping, mouth-watering good time.
“Our events fill up, so people shouldn’t count on looking at the website and then showing up the day of the event,” they said.
The store will also do box lunches and is a great place to stop and rest if you are biking in the larger French Prairie area. In fact, on the Saturday I visited several bikers stopped and enjoyed some of the beverages – local and national – that were offered in the store.
If you don’t have time for attending one of the special events, there is a small section of history inside the store, with pictures of old boats that would travel down the Willamette River and even a steering wheel from the sternwheeler “Ruth.” Signs in the store remind people that Butteville was a major town along the river, when it was Oregon’s Interstate before the railroad and highway system took those honors.
Down the street from the store there is still river access for those who want to see where the town began, it’s a nice stroll to work off some of that fresh, homemade pie.
About the Historic Butteville Store: Their menu varies monthly to provide farm fresh produce from the French Prairie. But, one thing you can always count on is our delicious homemade soups, sandwiches, salads, and desserts. Stop in for a slice a pie made with fresh local fruit, a Tillamook ice cream cone or a fresh fruit milkshake. Their friendly staff always does their best to make you feel right at home.
While you’re at the store take a minute to browse our great selection of Oregon history, and nature books. We are expanding our retail items to include unique gifts and a selection of French Prairie grown and produced agriculture products.
Thank you for visiting the oldest continuously-operating business in Oregon. Please tell your friends about the jewel known as The Historic Butteville Store.
What to bring: A large appetite is needed it you want to sample as much of the local faire as possible. From fresh sandwiches to berries and fruits picked the same day, it really is the best the Willamette Valley has to offer during the summer months.
Tip: Pat and Makinzie couldn’t urge enough that if you plan on attending one of the store’s special events to call and reserve seats as soon as you can. There is limited seating in the small store, so they fill up fast with locals and history buffs.
Season: The store is open Memorial Day to mid-October.
Getting there: The store is located at 10767 Butte St. NE, Aurora OR for those of you with GPS. Otherwise, the store is minutes away from Interstate 5. Heading Southbound from Portland, take the Charbonneau exit and turn right on Miley Road. Veer right when Miley Road turns into Butteville Road and follow that to Butte St in Butteville. Northbound on I-5 from Salem, take exit 282 and turn left on Miley Road. Veer right where it turns into Butteville Road and follow that into Butteville.
By Patrick Johnson