A Trio of Visionaries

    Gerold Dennett, Greg Simione, and H. Larry Leasure transform Garden Valley

    By Pamela Kleibrink Thompson, Photography by Lance Thompson

    The Garden Valley village of Crouch had plenty of small-town charm, community pride, and natural scenery. It did not, however, have a full-service grocery store and deli–at least not until Crouch residents Greg Simione and Gerold Dennett decided they and their neighbors deserved one.

    There are many picturesque small towns in Idaho that attract tourists and residents from across the country. But at the confluence of the South and Middle Forks of the Payette River, which also attracts fishermen and rafters, Crouch has an advantage–two residents who don’t believe that living in a small town means giving up connection with the arts while enjoying the great outdoors. Only an hour’s drive from Boise, but worlds different, the population of Crouch is comprised of retirees, local residents who work in Crouch, and those who commute to the Treasure Valley.

    Simione and Dennett hired Boise developer H. Larry Leasure, Chairman and CEO of White-Leasure Development Company, to build a new full-service grocery store.  Leasure, who owns a home on the South Fork of the Payette, remembers, “The reason I got involved with Crouch and Garden Valley was because of Greg and Gerold’s vision–they wanted to keep the grocery store downtown and retain the feel of the town.”

    Crouch’s buildings are all wooden frame structures, some dating to the early 20th century, including the Old Crouch Mercantile Exchange. “The Old Merc is about as charming as a building can get,” Dennett says. “The original grocery store was in there. It’s an incredible part of Garden Valley history.” Dennett and Simione took pains to preserve as much of the Old Merc as possible, from wood plank floors to tin ceilings. But then their grocery store outgrew the space.

    As they worked with Leasure to construct a new store, they converted the Old Merc into a home to dozens of artisans who each have a booth to display crafts including quilting, leatherwork, and jewelry.

    The new supermarket reflects the town’s frontier Western decor and flavor. Local craftsman stained the concrete floors, built the stone fireplace, and created the interior mural signs on the wall. In addition to national brands, The Garden Valley Market also carries some local producers, selling elk meat, salsa, lavender products, eggs, poultry, firewood, and more. The new 15,000 square foot commercial project has retail space available for lease and strengthens the commercial core in downtown Crouch.

    Dennett and Simione are retired professional dancers who are both active in the arts. Past president of the Garden Valley Chamber of Commerce,  Simione currently serves as president of the Garden Valley Center for the Arts. Crouch was home to internationally acclaimed Idaho artist James Castle, who created art using found materials and charcoal. Castle, deaf and mute, was driven to create art and didn’t let his disabilities or the lack of art supplies keep him from expressing himself. Every September, Crouch celebrates the art of Castle with James Castle Days.

    “Our focus is on working with other residents to help maintain our rural lifestyle and make it possible to live and work and play in Garden Valley” explains Dennett.

    And now Crouch has both an artisan showplace and a supermarket, thanks to a trio of visionaries.

    To get to Crouch, go north on Highway 55 from Highway 44 (State Street) about 40 miles, turn right onto the Banks Lowman Rd and proceed 8 miles, turn left onto the Middlefork Rd. and about 2/10ths of a mile later you have entered the village.

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