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On Jan. 1, Ron and Mindy Sloper will be selling the Powell Butte Country Store and retiring, but the store will stay in the family as son Kurt and his wife, Nicki, will be taking over the reins

RAMONA MCCALLISTER
 - The Sloper family poses for a photo in front of the store. Back row from Left: Ron Sloper; Mindy Sloper; Kurt Sloper. Middle row from left: McKinley Sloper; Nicki Sloper. Front: Morgan Sloper.

"It was the best job a guy could ever have."

That is the way Ron Sloper of the Powell Butte Country Store felt about the culture of owning a retail store in the rural community that bears the name of the store for 27 years. "You got to see your friends every day — and the community."

The store sells retail goods, including snacks, beverages and everyday necessities. It also has a reputation for some of the best chicken and jojos around. In the summer of 2017, the store was voted to have the best fried chicken in Central Oregon by the Bend Bulletin.

There is a gas station on site, which is a real benefit for the Powell Butte community.

Ron and Mindy Sloper bought the Powell Butte Country Store when their son, Kurt, was 10 years old, and their daughter, Kelli, was almost 5 years old. Mindy said that it's been fun being part of the community, watching people come and go, and watching their kids go — and come back.

On Jan. 1, Ron and Mindy will be selling the store and retiring, but the store will stay in the family. Kurt and his wife, Nicki, will be taking over the reins after the first of the year.

Kurt is the principal at Crook County Middle School. He taught sixth grade for five years at Powell Butte Community Charter School after coming back to his community when he finished college.

"We are excited about this new adventure for our family, employees and customers," Kurt. said

Both Kurt and Nicki have experience managing employees, and Nicki has experience working with vendors, as well. Before becoming a teacher, Nicki was an assistant manager at Starbucks, so she brings business experience with her. She will be managing the store when they take over in January.

"The store has been an important part of the Powell Butte community for almost a century," said Nicki. "We are excited to continue the store's legacy of providing great service, laughs and the best fried chicken to our valued customers."

"We are excited to be selling the store to family because we know they will continue to serve the needs of the community," Mindy said. "They will also bring in new ideas and will grow the business."

Mindy and Ron have countless recollections of good times as the owners and managers of the store.

"Our first recollection was the first baby born in Powell Butte after we moved here," Mindy recalled. "It was Kacey Loper in 1992. When Kacey drove up to the store in the family truck hauling horses, I teased her because I knew she was only 15. But that's how they do things in the country."

The employees that work for the Slopers are also a testament to their sense of community and providing a good working atmosphere.

"I love it," said Jalynn Morris, who has worked for the Slopers for four years. "It's a good environment, but it's really busy."

Anna Clark is a new employee, but she also loves working for the family. Ron and Mindy both felt that part of owning the store has been getting to know people right away.

Ron and Mindy could always gauge the season by the arrival of new calves and the Lord's Acre Sale.

"We always knew when it was calving season,because Dick Cain from Cain Ranch would come down to get homogenized milk for the little ones who needed bottle feeding," said Mindy. "And Dean Pettyjohn had a calf that needed bottle feeding. It was in the little field beside the store. Our 7-year-old daughter, Kelli, would feed it every morning before school. It was a great experience for her."

The Slopers always donated to the Lord's Acre Sale, even before they began attending the Powell Butte church.

"I made fudge for them, and after the older ladies at the church needed to step back, they asked me if I would make all the fudge," said Mindy. She had a family recipe that was quite popular. "But then we needed to make so much that Rachel McIntyre decided she better help me."

Mindy smiled at the memory of Jan Howard calling her one day to reserve a table by the window because she wanted to bring her granddaughter and best friend over from school for lunch to celebrate their birthdays. The store only has three or four booths, so Howard wanted to ensure they had a table.

"I had to put a reserved sign on the table," smiled Mindy. "Jan decorated the table and cleaned up afterwards."

Ron and Mindy intend to travel a bit after they sell the store to Kurt and Nicki. They have talked about volunteering more — both at church and in the community.

"We do want to thank our local folks for their years of suppot," Ron said. "We have fond memories of our service people coming home for a visit and stopping for jojo's that they can't get anywhere else. And kids coming back from college or home visits, and we still recognize them. We will miss that."

In closing, they both emphasized, "We couldn't have done this without them."


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