|The Rabbit Hash General Store is on schedule to reopen in spring. WCPO.|
"The best news of 2017 is that we don’t think the opening of the store is going to take as long as we first projected," Clare announced in a newsletter last week. "It is not going to take until late summer. ... We would really like it to be on Feb. 13, 2017 -- one year to the day it burned (just for the non-believers) -- but that may be pushing it. Early Spring, however, is certainly not out of the question."
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The announcement comes as residents continue to rally around the 185-year-old general store, which suffered a devastating fire last year that burned much of the building down. Since then, numerous online initiatives, parades and other creative fundraisers -- like paying $1 to vote for the town's canine mayor -- have been able to restore much of the structure.
Speaking of the new mayor, the small town elected a leader everybody can get behind: a dog named, wait for it, Brynneth Pawltro.
|Brynn, the newly-elected mayor of Rabbit Hash, Kentucky. Provided.|
“She’s a lover, she’s such a sweet dog. She is a pit bull rescue and she’s going to be quite the ambassador for that breed,” says Bobbi Kayser, who is on the board of directors for the Rabbit Hash Historical Society in Kentucky, where ballots were cast.
Brynneth, also known as Brynn, is owned by college student Jordie Bamforth, who works for an animal hospital.
It's the town’s fourth canine mayor, with the first, a mutt named Goofy, taking office in 1998. A black Lab named Junior followed a few years later. In 2008, the same year Obama was elected, a border collie named Lucy Lou, belonging to Kayser, earned the title.
Lucy Lou retired on Nov. 8 and is notable because she’s the only former canine mayor not to die in office.
Duane Doyle, vice president of the Rabbit Hash Historical Society, helped deconstruct the store after the fire, making sure to save what they could.
"We salvaged studding, siding, shelving, flooring, the porch overhang, rear door, front center door, window frames, and more," Doyle said. "Losing the store was the same as losing anything or anyone you love. It was painful to watch burn. Don and I spent the rest of that night stopping fires that kept trying to rekindle."
They first restored the General Store's floors, then the walls, and now they're working on the ceilings. And the old wood didn't go to waste.
Christmas decorations and as many as 40 wooden benches were made debris. The benches were sold and raised $6,000 for a new fire suppression system for the store -- which was the brainchild of local Fire Chief Jeff Hermes.
"The benches were all made from the unusable remnants of the original 1831 Ohio River barge timbers that were dismantled and used as foundation floor joists for the original building, 180 years ago," Clare wrote. "Just think of all the floods and mud those timbers have endured, yet kept that National Register structure safe and intact!"
Clare said each bench was unique, showing "the scars of the ravages they endured over these many years. Some were charred from the fire; others hacked, cut, hand-hewn, nailed, drilled, bolted and so forth. Each one told a different story, and instead of being discarded or left to rot, they all have a new life and a new appreciation."
But it takes time, he said. A normal project would consist of wood and nails. This isn't a normal project.
"The thing that takes a lot of time is getting the wood, getting the nails out of it, priming it, and then nailing it up," he said. "It's not new construction."
But the "early Spring" deadline seems more than likely, he said. "It's very doable -- all downhill from here," he said. "There's an awful lot of people who give me a lot of support."
Clare knows none of it could be done without the help of all the residents.
"The interest and energy emanating from the store’s progress is so palpable around Rabbit Hash and the rest of Northern Kentucky," he said.
"The store is the social center, and I get more out of being a part of its return than words can express," Doyle said.
Donations for the restoration of the store can be made to Forcht Bank in Burlington just off Route 18. Ask for the Rabbit Hash General Store Restoration Fund or call (859) 689-1350.
Ryan Clark, contributing to WCPO, and Amy Jamieson of People.com comprised this report.