More than a store, it’s a family affair
The snowdrifts are piled waist-high at the intersection of Banner Quaker Hill and Pasquale roads, directly in front of an overhang where John Perry and Gary Kilday smoke cigarettes, jamming their fists into their jacket pockets in a desperate attempt to keep warm.
Inside the redwood-paneled Cascade Shores General Store, John’s wife, Cindy, seats customers, serving plates piled with patty melts, French fries and Philly cheesesteaks while clinging to her lifelong dream.
Whether it’s winter, when the chill of the mountain air gives men’s cheeks a ruddy hue, or the summer, as patrons strip to their shorts for a swim in nearby Scotts Flat Lake, Cindy and John Perry gladly welcome you into this store that has become a part of their home for the last two decades.
Once inside, visitors are greeted by the smell of frying butter, sizzling bacon and hot coffee, all prepared on a stove by a woman who, by her own admission, never really learned how to cook before putting on an apron at the store four-and-a-half years ago.
This is the place where the hardy souls living in Cascade Shores come to swap stories, store their cold beer and call the store on chilly mornings to inquire if Banner Quaker Hill Road is free of snow just so they can get their breakfast.
“I love it here,” said cook Patty Starnes on a recent weekday afternoon. “This is why we come here. We’re a big family.”
A family that, for the past five years or so, has wondered if John and Cindy Perry will ever really hang up their spatulas for good.
A sign in front of the store tells locals and visitors alike that the rustic outpost is for sale, just as it has been off and on since the Perrys moved to Cascade Shores from Hayward in 1983.
John and Cindy began vacationing in the Cascade Shores area with their children more than 20 years ago when he owned a trucking company and she was an office manager in Oakland.
“We soon realized that we didn’t want to go home,” Cindy Perry said.
The couple built the rustic restaurant, enlisting their two children, both under the age of 10 at the time. Jason, their oldest, is now a Grass Valley Police officer.
The family first sold the store in 1990, bought it back and remodeled it four years later, then handed the note to a woman in San Jose who ran it for three years.
In 1997, the Perrys bought the store for a second time. But Cindy Perry, 57, a financial secretary for Hooper and Weaver Mortuary, and her husband, 66, have different priorities now. They are raising two pre-teen grandsons who aren’t ready for anything as serious as a country store – yet.
“I’m not selling it to just anybody,” Cindy Perry said. “The person who comes in and buys this place has to love Cascade Shores, and that’s not everybody. I like it here, and I’d like to be here more if I could.”
The store, like many markets in Nevada County’s rugged environs, survives as a community gathering place and social hall.
There are Easter egg hunts and Halloween costume parties. And on Mother’s Day, weekend cook Kilday whips up an eggs Benedict feast. The regular menu includes items such as Katie’s Special, a breakfast named for a girlfriend of Starnes’ son.
The mood of the place is most always upbeat – and if it isn’t, Cindy Perry will let you know. Patrons who use foul language are required to pay for their transgressions by stuffing change into a ceramic bottle on the counter.
“If people have a potty mouth, they’re going to pay for it,” Cindy Perry said. “I have a 50-cent credit in there because I didn’t have any change.”
Patrons agree that the restaurant, with its no-frills style, delivers the goods when it comes to food.
“I haven’t been disappointed yet,” said Cascade Shores resident Larry McGill, eating a patty melt and fries. “After eating here, the drive to town doesn’t bother me at all.”
Kilday, who’s owned his own restaurant, the Omelette Pan on Joerschke Drive, and worked for the Lyon’s restaurant chain, takes great pride in preparedness, boiling potatoes long before the store opens.
“When the bus pulls in, I’m ready,” he joked.
Asked for his take on who might buy the place, Kilday is certain of just one thing: “This is family. You gotta run it that way.”
Although it has been on the market a while, John Perry looks forward to the day when he is just a customer at the store.
“I’ll be sad and relieved,” Perry said of the day he hands over the keys. “But whoever takes this place has got to work at it.”
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