Cliff and Shirley Erb held hands as they walked to the front of the building for a photo Tuesday afternoon with the new owners of their hardware store.
After more than a half century of owning Corner Hardware, Orchard’s sweethearts remain hand in hand, fitting as their store changed hands with another longtime Orchard couple — Glen and Tammy Cheatum.
For 52 years, the hardware store on the corner of Second and Noble Street in Orchard has been a second home for the Erbs, who officially turned over the keys on Monday to the Cheatums. The transitions have brought both smiles and tears to the longtime owners, who are now in their early 80s and want to spend precious time together.
“It’s time,” said Shirley as she wiped away a tear. “We’ll still be down here, though not as often. It’s in good hands.”
Cliff agreed and said he was “thrilled” to have the Cheatums continue the legacy of Orchard’s store.
“They’ll do some things to advance it,” he said.
Glen Cheatum said he always enjoyed seeing what Corner Hardware had in stock.
“If you came in for the bargain of the month, you’d usually leave with something else, too. We’re going to try and do something like that again,” he said.
The Cheatums, who haven’t decided what the store will officially be called, said they’re excited to hear from the community about what items they would like them to carry and how they can serve Orchard. After all, Tammy said, that’s why they made the purchase.
“I believe in the Orchard community and don’t want to see businesses close,” she said. “I think it’s important to give back to the community and provide services. This has lots of potential. We want to make some updates, but we also respect our history.”
A Bit Of History
Cliff graduated from Orchard Public School in 1953 and Shirley graduated the following year. Just days after her graduation — May 23, 1954 — they were married.
They dabbled in teaching and other jobs before moving back to Orchard when Cliff took a job selling cars for Wayne Lautenschlager. They tried their hand at different career paths until 1968 when they purchased the Corner Hardware store from Jerry Maple in 1968.
And the Erbs have been on the corner of Second and Noble ever since. They’ve changed hardware affiliations over the years, but the biggest change was adding the Fudge and Candy Kitchen in 1992.
Shirley said adding a fudge kitchen seemed like an obvious addition with Ashfall Fossil Beds State Historical Park just miles away.
“With Ashfalls down the road, we wanted to attract people to Orchard, too,” Shirley said. “We always hit every candy store when we’re on the road, so we figured other people might, too.”
The Erbs were in Quartzsite, Ariz., when they saw a couple making candy. Cliff told the man that if he ever wanted to sell his equipment, give him a call.
A year later, the man called. His wife had died, and he was ready to sell. The man loaded up his equipment, drove it from Arizona to Orchard and even spent two weeks with the Erbs teaching them the ropes.
They make all kinds of fudge — chocolate, walnut, mint, peanut butter, amaretto, maple and more. But don’t ask Cliff which one is his favorite because he doesn’t have one. He doesn’t really eat much fudge.
After more than 50 years in business, the Erbs are staples of the community. They became Commercial Club members upon their return to Orchard.
The group was a Chamber of Commerce for Orchard until it transitioned into the current Community Club.
The Cheatums are equally as involved in the community. Glen serves on the Village board and Tammy is active in the Orchard Economic Development Association. Both are involved in countless other organizations as well.
While Tammy admitted it’s a bit scary to take on the role as new business owners, she’s exciting to carry on their legacy.
“This will be a community effort at first,” she said. “We have a lot to learn, but it’s exciting. They wanted to make sure this stayed in the community, and that’s exactly what we want to do.”