McCloud River Mercantile
By Brandi Barnett
Historic GemApril 2007
By Melissa Gulden
Nestled in the sleepy logging community of beautiful McCloud, stands the stately, yet unassuming,mcCloud River Mercantile.
Under national register for its history, the old mill town general store, established in 1897, was a project Darlene Mathis and her husband, Kevin, couldn’t wait to get their hands on.With a background in restoration, having worked on libraries and theaters in the Sacramento area, Mathis and her family moved to McCloud six years ago to take on the enormous project.
“This store was California’s first mall,” says Darlene, a virtual walking encyclopedia of McCloud history. “it was the first of its kind, as far as having different departments under one roof.” Mathis has worked diligently to keep the integrity of the store, which means a lot of searching for bits of americana. With many of the original cabinets and floors, the store is a smorgasbord of goods, everything from soaps, to Levis to children’s toys.many memories go with the merchandise and the “old-timers” are a-plenty.With an old fashioned candy shoppe, soda fountain and bookseller all under the same roof, it’s no wonder tourists flock to the historic building. “We’ve reused as many of the old materials as possible,” said Mathis. “to us, maintaining the integrity of the store was important.”
They’ve brought in some modern touches as well. Soon, there will be a hotel perched atop the mercantile—The Mercantile Inn, scheduled to open memorial Day weekend. “We already have reservations and we aren’t even open yet,” said Mathis. Boasting 10 rooms, all done in various themes incorporating the history and who’s who of the area, from the 1880s to the 1940s, the inn is a testament to the family’s passion and commitment to preserving the town’s lineage.The inn pays homage to the town’s Swiss foundation and Italian workers of the past. each tile is gingerly hand-laid, each claw foot bathtub specifically placed so the guests will have the best views of the mountain and surrounding wilderness.
“It’s too easy to get away from your original vision,” said Mathis. “We don’t want to sell out.We know what’s important to people; we’ve learned what people like.”
it is obvious in the love that has gone in to maintaining the mercantile, as well as expanding it to incorporate a new vision. The Mathis family has gone to great care to not only preserve history in the town of McCloud, but to make new memories as well.