The Dam Store stands the test of time

Owner Doug Goble cleans up outside The Dam Store on Wednesday. The business, located near Palisades Dam, first opened in 1951. It has changed hands and focus many times over the years.

IRWIN — Driving to Palisades Reservoir, it’s easy to overlook The Dam Store.

At first glance, there’s nothing remarkable about the wooden building with the red-and-yellow sign out front.

But the business at 3846 Swan Valley Highway (U.S. Highway 26) has been around for 63 years, undergoing a series of transformations as it was bought and sold over the years. At one time, local residents and passers-by would stop there for groceries, liquor — even postage stamps.

Today, it houses a “yard-sale type” antique store, stuffed with an assortment of odds and ends, including items that recall the history of Swan Valley and surrounding area.

“We sell things we’ve found and things people have given us,” owner Doug Goble said. “We have tools and things from when the (Palisades Dam) was being built.”

Goble said they have vintage equestrian gear, an antique air compressor, hand tools, and farming tools. There also is an assortment of record players, furniture and fishing equipment.

One day, Goble and his wife, Sheilahope to restore the business to its former glory.

“I would love in the future to turn it into a complete and total antique store,” Sheila Goble said.

Changing hands

The store was built in 1951 by Paul and Josie Byrd and was known as Byrd’s Market, the Gobles said. In those days, it sold groceries, liquor and served as a post office.

“At the time, it fit in really well,” 76-year-old Swan Valley resident Vern Ford said.

In the 1970s, Joy and Robert Quayletook over the business, renaming it Quayle’s Country Store. But when a truck ran over the store’s sign, the name changed again. The Dam Store was born.

Sheila Goble said the name still causes a stir.

“Customers have told me their wives accused them of cussing at them when they say, ‘I was at The Dam Store,’” Goble said. “I think people associate the name of the store with the area. I have adults come in and say they remember the store from when they were kids because they got to come in and cuss.”

The Gobles moved to Irwin in 2000 when Doug found a job teaching at Swan Valley Elementary School. Sheila went to work at The Dam Store, which by that time was owned by Tom and Joan Morgan.

“I was managing the store when (Tom Morgan) was looking to sell it,” Goble said. “My husband and I decided to buy it (in 2002) because we fell in love with the area.”

Surviving hard times

When the Gobles bought the business, it was a gas station and convenience store. But the couple quickly ran into problems.

“We had to get rid of the gas station because we couldn’t get our tanks licensed,” she said. “It was a convenience store up until four years ago.”

The year was 2010 and the Great Recession — in eastern Idaho just about everywhere else — ran the economy into the ditch.

“When the recession hit, nobody was coming up to the area and (business) just tanked,” Sheila Goble said. “We couldn’t afford to do it anymore. The store couldn’t support itself.”

Business dried up and the convenience store was transformed again, this time emerging as an “antique” store. But the shop has no employees and does not keep regular business hours. Doug said he opens the door when he sees someone drive up.

Sheila works as a dispatcher for Big Bear Towing in Alpine, Wyo.

A community landmark

Trillis Flemming, 74, who was born and raised in Swan Valley, said the decline of the business was dramatic.

“It’s nothing like it was when I was a kid,” Flemming said. “When the Byrds first opened it, it was filled with fresh produce and meat.”

Although the years have taken a toll, Flemming said the business remains a community landmark.

“I guess in some ways the decline has been inevitable,” Flemming said. “The Dam Store is the only store that’s still here exactly how it was — other than the fact they don’t sell groceries anymore.”

Sheila Goble said the family plans on sticking around, and one day, hopes to get the business back on its feet.

“I’ve raised my grandchildren in here, we have a house above the store,” she said. “It’s home.”