Cedar Shack rises from ashes

Sean C. Morgan

Of The New Era

Nearly four years after arsonists destroyed the Cedar Shack, the restaurant is relatively close to completion.

“Everything’s going really well,” said co-owner Jan Hufford Wilson. “This part seems to be moving very fast.”

Last week, Hufford Wilson and her family were busy painting and working inside the new building, located at the intersection of 40th Avenue and Highway 20.

She hopes to have the family-owned restaurant, famous for its “owl burgers,” open by Grampa Tom’s Car Show in June.

The Cedar Shack burned on Sept. 24, 2004 as part of an attempt to cover up a burglary. Two persons were convicted in connection with the burglary and arson.

The Cedar Shack was a Sweet Home landmark, where truck drivers could place their orders over a CB radio and have them waiting. The Hufford family, long involved in the logging industry offered a specialty menu, with items such as the Chipper Burger and after the timber decline of the 1990s, the Spotted Owl Burger.

The restaurant was originally built in 1965, with an office addition constructed in 1971. At the time of the fire, the business was owned by Tom and Mardy Hufford and managed by Hufford Wilson.

Hufford Wilson had worked in the restaurant from the time it opened until it burned. The family had been planning to open a pizza parlor and rent videos in the newer building, which was destroyed in the fire. The main restaurant was heavily damaged.

“We originally planned to have it open for the car show last year,” said Marvin Wilson, Hufford Wilson’s husband, but they discovered that building a restaurant requires a lot more attention to detail than if it were a residence.

“We’ve learned a lot, and if you’re going to do this kind of stuff, what to ask,” Hufford Wilson said.

They are getting excited as the restaurant gets closer to opening, she said.

“She hasn’t made an owl burger for four years now,” Wilson said of his wife.

And she’s too old to learn new tricks, Hufford Wilson said. She’s looking forward to running a restaurant again.

Most of the family will be back, she said. Since the fire, many of the family members have taken other jobs, and “we’ll let them keep their jobs. They’ll just have to put their time in.”

Her youngest daughter, Cheryl, hasn’t ever had the chance to work at the Cedar Shack, Hufford Wilson said, but now she’ll get it.

“And I have friends I work with in Albany (at Sears) telling me I have to get them a job,” Brittany Wilson said.

The restaurant is larger than it was before the arson. While it adds seating, it will retain a couple of defining features. First, the CB radio will be back, and truck drivers will be able to order on the road and pick up their order on the way through town.

“We’ve always had an open cooking area,” Hufford Wilson said. With her interest in acting and theater, cooking is kind of like performing and the cooking area a stage.

They’re even thinking of dinner theater as they rebuild the Cedar Shack, she said.

Including the counter, the old Cedar Shack could seat 11, Wilson said. The new version will seat many more.

The Wilsons are rebuilding from scratch, Wilson said. The insurance company said it would cost $400,000 to rebuild. The family is getting into it for $200,000, but they had to borrow to do it.

Among those who have helped with the new building are Hufford Wilson’s sister, Tommy, and brother-in-law, Chip Dalton. Volunteer firefighters also helped hang sheetrock recently.

The insurance money mostly went to cover tearing down the original structure.

The arsonists “got 39 months,” Hufford Wilson said. “We got 30 years.”

The family has never had a mortgage before, but despite having one now, Hufford Wilson is excited and looking forward to getting the business running again.