NORTH FORK – Big changes are coming to downtown North Fork as Bandit Town owner Jennifer McMillan gets busy on the three store fronts and two houses she recently purchased from Doug and Lois Betty.
McMillan is the new owner of the building that now houses K&B Auto Parts, plus the shop that used to be Sierra Video which closed in 2013, and the “garage” area in between.
Her plans are to create “a cool little row of businesses starting with a country store with home goods, jams, books, blankets, picnic and camping items, souvenirs, new and vintage clothing, and perhaps tackle and fishing supplies.” That shop will be located in the building that is now K&B.
McMillan plans to open an old-fashioned candy store in the center garage area, complete with a 10 cent riding horse – the kind those of us old enough to remember used to pestered our parents to let us take a turn on at the grocery store back in the day.
The old video store will be a work in progress.
“We are hoping to turn that building into a cafe/diner/bakery and deli, with pies and coffee. Think the Whistle Stop Cafe in Fried Green Tomatoes. That one’s going to take a while because we have lots to sort out with the kitchen and restroom situation.”
Her vision is to put a vintage, antique and thrift store in that location to raise money for the build-out while she works on the other two shops.
As for the two houses that come with the property, McMillan says someone is moving into one of them and will be on-site to work on renovations. The second could be turned into another cute little store in the future. There is also a shop building that may serve as home to a sign maker. All these plans are still in the works, and she has new ideas every day about how to bring vibrant commerce to downtown North Fork.
McMillan has been a force of nature since moving to the area in 2013. She purchased Old Town on Road 226 and has restored the derelict property to its old glory, renaming it Bandit Town and making it available to local organizations for community events. It has hosted the annual Chili Cook-off and Pie & Cake Bake-off, the Frugal Friends Fashion Show, Casino Night, Oktoberfest, Bonanza Night, and other festivals and fundraisers.
McMillan also bought the Stage Stop in downtown North Fork to run as a B&B. She has since sold it to a friend and opened Bandit Brand Trading Post in Oakhurst, a boutique store with new and vintage clothing, Bandit Brand tees, housewares, blankets and gifts.
In addition to acquiring two cabins in the Wishon area, she recently purchased the Snowline Depot on the north end of Oakhurst.
Plans for the Snowline include a country bar with live music every Saturday night, complete with line dancing and upscale bar food. Those plans have hit a bump in the road as someone has filed a complaint with California Alcohol Beverage Control (ABC) regarding her obtaining a liquor license.
This is the second time McMillan has had a project sidelined due to complaints to ABC. One neighbor on Klettes Pride Way next to Bandit Town has objected to the facility having a liquor license, costing her time, money, and bookings at the venue.
But that isn’t stopping this determined woman from moving ahead with her many projects, including her newest in North Fork.
“We lost our main supplier, Carquest, in October 2016,” she says. “They advised us they are no longer servicing our store. They gave no reason. However, we are an independent store and they wanted us to become computerized. We couldn’t justify spending $20,000 for the program plus about $500 a month for the support system.”
With the closing of the Oakhurst and Mariposa Carquest stores in recent years, Lois says they were the last one on the route.
“It was costing them money to deliver to us. We could not be competitive going with other companies, especially with people being able to buy online.”
Over the years, the parts store and video store buildings have been home to a Firestone department store, a grocery store, and a fabric shop. The center area started as a feed and grain store and then became a Richfield gas station.
The Betty family has managed or owned the businesses in these buildings since moving to the area in 1944.
Lois says she and Doug are “absolutely thrilled and please that Jen is the one purchasing the property. We know she will do good things for the community.”