Historic Sweet Home business closes its doors

After nearly a 58-year run, a historic Sweet Home business is closing its doors.

The Cedar Shack Drive In, a family business best known for its burgers, permanently closed in December, but will be taking orders one day more before saying goodbye for good.

Family business

Owner Jan Hufford grew up in the Cedar Shack Drive In. It shaped her as much as she shaped it: She helped build the original building. She varnished the wood and put the shingles on the roof.

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Cedar Shack Drive In, 4102 Main St. will be open one more day, on Feb. 17, before its doors are permanently closed. 

In the early days, she picked tomatoes from her family’s property to be used for the burgers. And in the summer, she picked blackberries for the shakes.

Her family home could be seen from the outside window of the shack. The land had been in her family’s name for more than a century. She described the business as always feeling “fabulous and warm.”

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“The shack was my home, when I wasn’t in school, I was here,” she said.

Her parents, Tom and Mardy Hufford, started the business. But after the passing of her mother several years ago, and the responsibilities of getting those affairs in order, Hafford said she and her sister “lost heart” for running the business.

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Jan Hufford looks upon family photographs inside Cedar Shack Drive In. Her parents started the business in February 1965. 

Crooked pictures of treescapes and the Santiam River line the inside of the building. Models of old cars skirt the windowsill, a nod to the family’s car show that was once hosted on the property.

Mounted elk antlers jut out of the walls above stacks of old yearbooks and records of Sweet Home history. An organ covered in framed photographs sits at the other end of the room.

Her father was a logger, Hufford said, and her mother’s side of the family had been in Sweet Home since the 1890s.

“There was always someone living with us who wasn’t blood-related,” she said. “My parents always had the door open. They just helped people; that was their legacy,” she said as she clutched a photograph of her mother and father.

Tom Hufford passed away in 2014 and Mardy Hufford died in 2020.

‘Losing heart’

Getting through the pandemic was difficult, Hufford said. It was hard to get people to follow the guidelines of social distancing since everyone was so used to hugging each other and being close, she said.

Additionally, some family members had comorbidities that made them want to be especially careful from contracting the COVID-19 virus, she said.

The tables inside the building are scattered with documents and legal paperwork.

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Cedar Shack Drive In in Sweet Home is closed after nearly 58 years due to issues around the settlement over the estate. 

Figuring out the financials and legalities after her parents passed was grueling, she said. Ultimately settlement over the estate was the reason for the closure, reads the sign on the drive in’s door.

Community landmark

The Cedar Shack Drive In quietly closed its doors in December. The business took holiday hours and never reopened after, Hufford said.

Since then, many Sweet Home residents have voiced their dismay for the closing of the landmark. A Facebook post announcing the closure garnered 200-plus reactions and more than 100 comments.

“Thank you for all the memories. I remember my grandparents taking us, and I’m glad that my grandchildren have been able to go,” a comment by Olivia Stafford read.

Others shared memories of working there in high school, sharing memories with friends and family. Over the years, the site was a meeting ground for grandpa Tom’s “Get-together car show,” and where a yule log tradition was held during the winter, Hufford said.

At least one person even got married there.

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After 57 years, Sweet Home’s historic business, Cedar Shack Drive In has closed its doors.

Madison McGrath remembers walking to the drive-up restaurant as a child with her grandpa. Later, it became the site of a first date, and where she was married.

“I got married inside on the performance stage; they even made me an aisle” she said.

It was Valentine’s Day, so there were pink and red decorations everywhere, and she finished the day with a bag of burgers, she recalled.

McGrath is moving back to Sweet Home and said she is sad she won’t be able to eat at the drive in anymore. She wished she could have ordered something one last time.

One day more

It’s a sentiment shared by many customers, who have pleaded for just one more day. So, Hufford gave in. She will open the doors of Cedar Shack Drive In on Friday, Feb. 17. She isn’t too clear on the details yet but said she will probably start at 11 a.m. and have the mini burgers available, she said.

Feb. 17, 1965, was the day the business first opened, and she wanted to honor that date.

“It will be the end of the beginning,” she said.

Hufford doesn’t know what will become of the building, and she’s sad to close the business.

It’s like saying goodbye to a home, she said. But she hopes that being open one last day will give her customers some closure, as well as her own.

Editor’s note: This article has been edited to correct a date.