Story for The Pacific Northwest Inlander
SMALL TOWNS 2015: SMALL TOWN, BIG HEARTS
In St. Maries, everyone looks after one another
Enormous trucks packing loads of timber zoom past, one after the other, whipping around tight corners and navigating the narrow two lanes of Highway 5 with familiarity. On weekdays, residents of St. Maries, Idaho, are accustomed to the roar of the trucks their main industry sends out to distribute their most precious export. The timber industry was the lifeblood of St. Maries back when it was founded in 1913 and still is today, despite a disaster in 1961.
“I do remember the night that the old sawmill burned down,” resident Kay Sather says. “That was a really big thing.”
At the time, the St. Maries Lumber Company was the largest employer and biggest mill in the area. Its demise left people unsure of the future.
“A lot of people moved away, but luckily we didn’t,” Sather says. Her husband had been working at the mill but was fortunate enough to find a job the very next day. For Sather, that means 75 (76 this month) years of living in the rural town surrounded by conifer trees and the St. Maries and St. Joe rivers. She graduated from St. Maries High School in 1957, married her high school sweetheart, raised seven children and watched her eight grandchildren graduate from the exact same school.
“I just like the closeness of people. You know your neighbors, you know who your children [are friends with], you know the teachers, we know our elected officials personally,” she says.
As the clerk auditor, Sather became quite familiar with elected officials, including State Senator Cy Chase. She recalls the time a person unable to pay overdue taxes came in while Chase was in the office.
“He just took some money out of his pocket and gave it to that person. I bet people don’t know that,” Sather says.
According to Sather, generosity is a town attribute. She volunteers her time helping with the Hughes House Museum and the Senior Meals Site program. Sather says that Paul Bunyan Days, the town’s biggest event and a sight to see, couldn’t happen without people donating their time.
“We have the biggest and best fireworks. They’re better than Coeur d’Alene,” she says, laughing. “There’s a group in town that keeps it going. Just volunteers, like everything.”
Go up one street from Main to College Avenue and you’ll find St. Maries City Hall, a small building easily overlooked in comparison to the stately Benewah County Courthouse across the street. Inside, City Hall is quaintly simple, with two desks in the main room and four other rooms. City treasurer Celia Sibert occupies the desk nearest the door.
Sibert, a third-generation resident of St. Maries, knows the town as well as anyone. She recommends an old favorite for lunch — Bud’s Big Burgers.
“They’ve remodeled it a little bit from the old Bud’s, but their hamburgers are still the same way as Bud used to make them,” Sibert says.
She frequented the joint as a kid and used to sit up at the soda fountain counter. “They always throw their hamburger in a sack to go, and you pick it up and the hamburger isn’t on the bun. That’s kind of like their signature hamburger.”
Back on Main, Richard Schumacker listens to Ray Charles at the jewelry store he’s owned for 37 years. Before that, it belonged to his father for 32 years. A woman walks into the shop and asks how much for the little plaque she’s picking up.
“What did I tell you?” Schumacker asks. “Five?”
“Four or five,” she replies.
“OK, we’ll make it four!” Schumacker hands her change for a $20. During his 45 years in St. Maries, Schumacker has participated in multitudes of fundraisers.
“People here help each other, and it’s way beyond anything that I’ve ever witnessed anywhere. I got this thing this week,” Schumacker turns to grab a flyer. On it, there’s a photo of a mom with an incurable, life-threatening disease. The flyer publicizes a fundraiser for her.
“It is not uncommon for many of the fundraisers to raise anywhere from $15,000 to $30,000 in one night, and it happens sometimes when the economy is not so good, but people find it in their hearts to do it.”
When asked to explain the remarkable generosity, Schumacker is blunt.
“I think small towns have to do that,” he says. “It’s a great place to live, and I even hate to let the secret out, it’s so damn good.” ♦
Population: 2,402 in the 2010 census
On the map: 53 miles south of Coeur d’Alene
Annual event: Paul Bunyan Days takes place Labor Day weekend, and the town celebration includes a fireworks show and parade.
Notable names: Vernon Baker (1919-2010), the only African American World War II veteran, among seven honorees, who was still alive when he belatedly received the Medal of Honor in 1997. Clyde Edward Pangborn (1895-1958), the first person to fly nonstop across the Pacific Ocean, and the second person in the U.S. to “wing-walk” on a plane.
Although the address places them on Division Street, cake and dessert boutique Marsells is actually on Cataldo Avenue, tucked between Chipotle Mexican Restaurant and a hair salon. Still can’t think of Marsells? Owner Marcel Kopplin says that’s the problem.
“I think we’re kind of a well-kept secret,” Kopplin says. “I’ve had people tell me that we are Spokane’s best-kept secret. I don’t want to be a secret anymore.”
Marsells has called the location home for four years, and those who have found the shop on the busy corner aren’t disappointed, as evidenced by their strong word-of-mouth reputation and stellar online reviews. Kopplin says there are a couple of reasons for the praise.
“Customer service, family-run, things other places don’t do — the petit fours, pineapple upside-down cakes, whoopie pies — that’s what sets us apart,” Kopplin says. She says the low prices of her high-quality treats also draw people in. Cookies, gourmet brownies, and cupcakes are just a couple of dollars. Specialty cakes for all types of events start at $25, wedding cakes at $3.50 a serving, and every cake is beautifully hand-decorated and can come in flavors ranging from tried-and-true chocolate and vanilla to their top-selling flavor, lavender.
“We’re known for our lavender cake and the rose petal cake,” Kopplin says. “They have a really subtle, soft, floral flavor.”
Not sold? Kopplin often offers free cake samples in the store and will even send samples all over the country at no charge. She’s that confident in her cakes.
“I know I’ll get a customer,” Kopplin says. “Ninety-nine percent of the time, they’ll book through me.”
She has the experience to back up the confidence. Kopplin taught at the Inland Northwest Culinary Academy at Spokane Community College for 22 years, has her AAS degree in baking, is a certified cake decorator and journey baker, and worked in wholesale for 10 years before opening Marsells. But she says nothing on paper matters if the passion isn’t there.
“[The certificates] don’t mean a lot to me, because if you don’t have your heart in it, then it means nothing,” Kopplin says. As for her secluded little shop? She plans on keeping it small, in the family and full of heart.
“I’ve got my teenage granddaughter in training,” Kopplin laughs. ♦
Marsells Cakes and Desserts Bakery • 920 N. Division • Open Tue-Fri, 11 am-5:30 pm; Sat, 11 am-3 pm • marsellscakes.com • 448-2512
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The No. 20 Arizona State Sun Devils (22-7, 11-6) could not overcome a blistering pace set by the Oregon Ducks (14-14, 5-12), falling in Eugene, Ore. Friday night 98-90. Foul trouble proved to be a key factor in the game, as every Sun Devil as five players committed four fouls each. Oregon, on the other hand, only totaled 16 fouls. Despite these issues, the game remained fairly close throughout and wasn’t completely decided until the closing minutes. Oregon brought their typical fast-paced offense, and the Sun Devils showed they were able to keep up. ASU overcame an early 12-point deficit to trail by one at the half, 45-46. Arizona State’s redshirt senior center Joy Burke came out hot, scoring ASU’s first 10 points. Burke led all scorers at the half with 16 points, but the Ducks’ senior guard Ariel Thomas wasn’t far behind, as she hit two early three-pointers and put up 15 in the first 20 minutes. The Sun Devils turned to their guards in the second half. Redshirt senior guard Deja Mann scored 13 and redshirt sophomore guard Katie Hempen added 12. Despite their efforts, Oregon’s sophomore forward Jillian Alleyne dominated the second half, where she scored 22 of her 29 points. She also finished with a game-high 16 rebounds. Ducks freshman Chrishae Rowe added 25 points, going 10-12 from the free-throw line. With six minutes remaining, the Sun Devils lost their lead for good as the Ducks went on a 10-3 run to pull away. The Sun Devils will face Oregon State on Sunday at 2:00 p.m. MST for their last game of the regular season. http://www.cronkitesports.com/arizona-state-oregon-womens-basketball-recap-march-1/
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