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Produced & Maintained by Idaho Mountain Express, Box 1013, Ketchum, ID 83340-1013 
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Copyright © 2003 Express Publishing Inc.
All Rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part in any form or medium without express written permission of Express Publishing Inc. is prohibited. 

Wednesday, June 16, 2004


The southern end of Main Street in Ketchum was somewhat less polished in the 1980s, when the Western Café dominated the west side of the street and Ketchum Drug occupied the two east-side buildings that today house Chapter One Bookstore and Windermere Real Estate. Photo courtesy of Ketchum Regional History Department, IAW Collection

New businesses bloom on Ketchum’s Main Street

Real estate office, restaurants fill old spaces with rich histories

Express Staff Writer

At the site of the Western Café, the humble, decades-old diner on Main Street in Ketchum, a small paper sign was hung on the door June 1 to thank the eatery’s patrons for years of loyalty.

Days later, a new sign on the door of the building announced the pending arrival of Eduardo’s, a family-style Mexican restaurant scheduled to open this summer.

The brick building on the southeast corner of Second and Main streets in Ketchum, left, was purchased earlier this year by Windermere Real Estate. It once housed Ketchum Drug, a popular drug store and soda fountain.

Across the street, in the 1940s-era brick building that was once a bustling, old-fashioned drug store, 26 employees of Windermere Real Estate have been settling into a new Ketchum-area headquarters.

Just next door, at Rico’s Pizza and Pasta, owner Richard "Rico" Albright is developing plans to start a new sports bar and Mexican cantina in the long-vacant building that once housed The Ore House bar and restaurant, at 241 Main St.

The sudden influx of new businesses to the southern end of Main Street in Ketchum is bringing new life to a trio of buildings that are rich with history.

"It’s very exciting," said Albright, who will be a co-owner and the general manager of the new venture in the Ore House site. "I think everybody’s happy that something is finally going in there."

The new business—which is yet to be named—will not prompt any changes at Rico’s, Albright said.

Richard "Rico" Albright is planning to open a new sports bar and Mexican cantina in the Main Street building that once housed The Ore House bar and restaurant in Ketchum.

Albright is set to take possession of the Ore House building this week pursuant to a new lease with the owners, the Ketchum-based Kirk Group real-estate company. He anticipates opening the new operation Dec. 1 after an extensive remodeling project.

The high-profile building, one of only a handful in the city that have been operated under a full liquor license, was an integral part of the Ketchum night scene for several decades in the late 20th century.

It was originally called The Tram Club, said Ketchum historian Ivan Swaner, before hosting a long list of other ventures that for one reason or another failed to endure.

"It has had a lot of different names," Swaner said, "and every one of those businesses went belly up."

Ketchum resident Vicky Graves said The Tram Club was a popular watering hole and all-night gambling joint in the 1950s and 1960s.

"Everybody went there for Halloween in the 60s," she said. "It was very spectacular."

In addition to The Tram Club, the rustic wooden building was home to Country’s, Mulvaney’s, Silver Creek Saloon, Grizzly Bear Pizza Parlor, Glory Hole Mining Company, X’s Trough and Brew and Baldy’s Bistro.

The Ore House building on Ketchum’s Main Street that has seen a lot of names over the years is destined to get yet another one. The deadline to suggest a new name for Richard "Rico" Albright’s new sports bar and cantina at the site was Tuesday. A decision should be announced soon.

The Ore House, which was started in 1966 by John Beaupre in the site of the existing Boiler Room lounge in Sun Valley Village, endured a 31-year tenure in Sun Valley before moving to Ketchum. The centerpiece of sometimes-tumultuous relations between Beaupre and his landlord, Sun Valley Co., the steak and seafood restaurant was sold in 1985 to Seattle restaurateur Hal Griffith.

Albright said the Ore House building in Ketchum—now vacant for more than three years—has seen enough businesses come and go that it has developed a reputation among locals as being cursed.

"We’ll have to do a little ceremony to get rid of the bad karma there," he quipped.


Windermere Real Estate managers last August started negotiating to purchase the brick building at the southeast corner of Second and Main streets, which once was home to the renowned Ketchum Drug store.

The company closed a deal earlier this year and in mid May started moving out of its Ketchum office on Sun Valley Road.

"We had been in our Sun Valley Road location for about five years and had outgrown it," said Dan Gorham, managing broker.

The highly visible Main Street building—occupied most recently by Sagebrush Interiors—was built in 1948 by Bud Hegstrom, who had managed a drug store in Sun Valley from 1940 to 1942.

At the end of World War II, Hegstrom took over management of a popular drug store at the corner of Main Street and Sun Valley Road. However, he eventually decided to build his own store when rent for the building—situated where the Roosevelt Tavern is currently located—increased dramatically.

Hegstrom reportedly was criticized for building the first cement sidewalk in the city, which once featured only wooden sidewalks.

The Ketchum Drug store in the 1950s and 1960s was one of a few primary gathering places in downtown Ketchum, Swaner said.

"They served the best coffee and old-fashioned ice cream," he said. "Every morning, people used to meet in there and play a game of cards and whoever had the lowest hand had to buy the coffee."

The drug store boasted a lively art-deco soda fountain popular with many high-school students, who were known to rush to the store counter to get a Cherry Coke after a day in school.

"It was a real gathering place," said Ketchum resident Mary Jane Conger, who was raised in a house adjacent to Ketchum Drug. "A lot of men hung around the counter drinking coffee and chewing the fat."

Conger said the store was the main venue for city residents to buy Christmas presents, newspapers and various sundries.

"Some older women were embarrassed by all the heads that turned to observe their presence as they walked through the back door to pick up their daily newspaper," she said.

By some accounts, the drug store for a period was a favorite haunt of a pet bird named Jim Crow, which often grabbed items such as keys and sunglasses from the countertop and carried them to an outdoor telephone line.

Ketchum Drug was sold in 1960 to Bob Glenn, who later purchased the adjacent Isaac Lewis First National Bank building, built in 1884. Glenn turned the historic bank into an annex for the drug store, using the extra space to sell gifts and tourist supplies.

The two buildings were eventually converted into distinct units and the bank building is today operated as Chapter One Bookstore.

The Hegstrom building was remodeled in the late 1980s and the original interior was entirely removed.

"People hated to see that drug store leave," Conger said.


The Western Café opened in the 1950s, Conger recalled, in a building that is believed to have been constructed in the mid 1940s.

She said the restaurant was popular with people from the "lower country"—the area comprising Twin Falls and Burley—for its casual atmosphere and affordable prices.

Swaner, a regular at the Western, said he was one of the first two or three customers the "mom-and-pop" diner attracted. He said the café ultimately became very popular with local residents.

"The food was always very good," Swaner said. "You could get a quarter of a pie as one single serving and coffee was five cents a cup … It catered mostly to the working people of the valley."

The Western Café served its last customers on May 31, ending its run as one of the oldest establishments in downtown Ketchum.

Swaner said the closure of the Western is indeed a loss for Ketchum but is merely one of a multitude of evolutionary changes he has witnessed since first coming to the city in 1947.

"The Main Street has really changed since I first started coming here," he said. "It’s very different."


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