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Mike and Melinda Spry have reopened the Emmaville Store after months of cleaning and hard work. The counter in front of them was a Sunday school table Melinda salvaged from a Nevis church. You can see where children carved their initials and names instead of paying attention to their Bible studies. The Sprys hope their gas tanks are inspected and filled this week. Eventually Sunday brunches will again be served in the cafe along with other meals. (Sarah Smith / Enterprise)

Emmaville Store reopens to steady stream of snowmobile traffic over weekend

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News Bemidji, 56619
Bemidji Pioneer
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Bemidji Minnesota P.O. Box 455 56619

Nearly two years after the door quietly closed, the Emmaville Store's brand spanking new front door reopened.

Many times over.

Mike and Melinda Spry were stocked with food, beer and essentials late last week.

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All but gas.

The gas tanks may arrive this week.

"We just decided to open the door" since a steady stream of traffic, including snowmobiles, stopped this past weekend.

"Oh yeah, they've been coming in," Mike Spry said Saturday. The newly renovated store shed the look of years of bare upkeep.

A brand new furnace warms the place up.

Before, a series of space heaters hung from the ceiling, making the floor a nippy place to stand.

The floors? They're new, too, along with the ceilings. The Sprys are both still paint-covered, hands stained from the latest labor of love.

It will be a gradual process to reopen the restaurant and start serving Sunday brunches and other meals.

But for the tiny store 10 miles north of Park Rapids, on County Road 4, the love was reciprocated as neighbors and longtime customers stopped by with well wishes, thrilled the town has come back to life.

The new counter is one of five mammoth tables Melinda bought from a Nevis church that was closing four years ago.

It still bears the carvings of naughty Sunday schoolers obviously eschewing their Bible lessons.

"We did scrape the gum off of them," Melinda said, but the couple stopped short of a deep sanding that would have removed the initials.

"People kept asking me what I was going to do with them," Melinda said after she bought the tables. "I said, 'I don't know, buy a bar, start a church...'"

Part of the front counter has been hollowed out for a display case to show off Emmaville memorabilia and vintage fishing gear.

Melinda remembers bringing baby daughter Emily, called Em, through the town years ago commuting from Bemidji. She always told her daughter the town was named after her.

"Now my granddaughter Marley is wondering if we're going to rename it Marleyville," Melinda laughed.

And the couple hopes to get the new cash register working to ring up brisk sales.

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Pioneer staff reports
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