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History Store opens at mall

David Richell of Central Point sits outside the History Store in theRogue Valley Mall portraying C.C. Beekman, a 19th century Jacksonville entrepreneurwho opened the first bank in Southern Oregon.

The History Store at the Rogue Valley Mall looks like any other giftshop, but it's marketing products with a past.

As Kathy Pilolla takes a seat in a hand-hewn chair, she nudges asidea kid-sized Raggedy Andy, whose creator, Johnny Gruelle, was a former Jacksonvilleresident.

He wrote `The Camel with the Wrinkled Knees' when he lived here,she said.

Pilolla handles public relations for the Southern Oregon Historical Society,which has operated gift shops in Jacksonville and its downtown Medford HistoryCenter for years.

This is much the same, but bigger, she says.

The mall store, on the lower level between Kinney Shoes and Miller'sOutpost, opened Friday for the holiday season and is scheduled to returnto the History Center after the first week of January.

The mall location provides three times the space as the crowded cornerof the History Center that the store normally occupies.

It also offers far more visibility and foot traffic, said Karalee Newberg,who's managed the stores for seven years. More museums are putting theirgift shops in malls, she added.

You can't just be a small shop tucked in the corner of a museumand make it, she said. And, more and more, it matters if youmake it.

Recent property tax limits enacted by Oregon voters have cast a shadowover the historical society's principal funding source, Pilolla said.

We're looking for ways to become more entrepreneurial, shesaid.

The stores rang up $133,000 in sales last year, with much of the HistoryCenter's revenues coming in during the holiday season. The Jacksonvillestore, at Third and California streets behind the old courthouse, does betterduring the summer because of the tourist traffic, Newberg explained.

We have a lot of wooden toys, tops, yo-yos, marbles, Newbergsaid. The kids pick up on those right away.

The store also banks on the popularity of nostalgia, adds Pilolla.

Victorian items are very popular, she said. We havethings like the dill pickle ornaments for the Christmas tree. It used tobe a tradition to hide a pickle on the tree and the child who found it gota prize.

They also have a potato on the tree.

We think there's a story to that, but we aren't sure what it is,Newberg said.

The store has a selection of books exploring Southern Oregon history.The best-seller is the Society's own Land in Common, a historyof Jackson County.

In addition to retail sales, the location includes materials and displayshighlighting the society's other locations and its collections of artifactsand photographs.

Each weekend this month, Mr. Beekman of the Beekman LivingHistory Program, will share tales of 1911 with shoppers.

The turn-of-the-century Jacksonville banker is portrayed by Central Pointresident David Richell.

He's great, Pilolla said. He's become quite an iconfor us.

The stores are operated by a crew of 15, a mix of staff and volunteers,headed by Newberg. Dan Sheret is the assistant manager at the Jacksonvillestore; Mary Bauer is the assistant manager at the mall store.

The store will be open for mall hours, which extend as lateas 10 and 11 p.m. during the peak of the holiday season. The telephone numberis 774-9129.

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History Store opens at mall