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Shirley Erb calls it her “window to the world,” which to an ordinary eye is simply a view of an ordinary main street.
For Cliff and Shirley Erb, who have spent just a handful of years living elsewhere, the community of Orchard is their world. They’ve been business owners for decades with Corner Hardware and Orchard Fudge & Candy, and they’re also advocates for community involvement.
Sometimes that community service means getting up at midnight to help your neighbor.
Cliff, who turned 80 on Tuesday, said their Corner Hardware store may be open Monday through Saturday, 8:30 to 5:30, but they’re only a phone call away at other times.
“We still come in at midnight for someone who needs a fuse,” he said. “That’s what you do in a small town.”
A Taste of History
Cliff graduated from Orchard Public School in 1953 and Shirley graduated the following year. Just days after 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 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.
Not surprisingly, it’s just up the stairs when you walk in the door, which of course is in the corner, and has a view out that same window.
A Piece of Heaven
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. He simply keeps it even.
“You have to even it up,” Cliff said with a sly smile before taking a bite of the fudge. “See how that there wasn’t quite even. I just had to make it even.”
A Community Staple
After nearly 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.
How long have they been members? “Forever,” Shirley said.
She still helps with lots of Community Club activities, including last weekend’s Easter Egg Hunt. When people wondered if it would be moved indoors, everyone said, “Call Shirley. She’ll know.”
Shirley is also part of the Orchard Alumni Association, which is eagerly planning one of its biggest banquets of recent memory. They moved the date from its traditional Sunday night to Saturday night this year to see if it worked better with alumni.
The association is honoring more than just key classes, they’re also honoring state and national accomplishments.
A Window To The World
The Erbs keep their Orchard history books near, but they can recite most key details by memory. And when something happens in town, their phone rings.
After all, they have a window to the world at the front of the store. They may spend some time down south during the winter, but they aren’t gone long. They like to be home - home sweet home, in their candy kitchen.
“I like our little town,” Shirley said. “Some people can’t survive in a little town, but we couldn’t survive in the city. We belong in a little town.”