'Bittersweet': Haines Shoe House honors Melanie's memory with new season
The Haines Shoe House was filled with families stopping in for their first ice cream of the spring season Wednesday — conversing happily and enjoying table crosswords and peg games at the Hellam Township landmark.
It's what owner Melanie Schmuck would have wanted — to see the Shoe House go on, said her mother-in-law, Diane Schmuck.
"It's very bittersweet," she said.
Melanie Schmuck, 38, died suddenly from health complications Thursday, Feb. 28, and her husband and co-owner Jeff Schmuck had a difficult decision to make.
"After much crying, thinking, soul searching and thoughtful discussions with friends and family, we have decided to open The Haines Shoe House on March 20th, the first day of spring, as Mel had planned," read a March 14 Facebook post.
The shoe-shaped oddity — created by self-proclaimed "Shoe Wizard" Mahlon Haines in 1948 as a gimmick to market his shoe stores — launched its new season at 11 a.m. Wednesday.
The house will be open from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday to Sunday through Memorial Day. Diane Schmuck said her son has not decided what the shop's hours will be after Memorial Day, but she knows he is not planning to ever close the landmark because it meant so much to his wife.
Customers touched by Melanie Schmuck's dedication to the tourist attraction and ice cream shop since taking over ownership in 2015 honored her by bringing in gifts such as yellow daffodils and a painted rock.
The rock was inspired by a national movement of painting rocks to spread positivity, Diane Schmuck said, adding that the practice involves people leaving rocks in different locations to say the place had been "rocked."
Jeff Schmuck and his staff also are paying their own homage to Melanie by selling sweet treats from local businesses Half Nuts Popcorn Co., located in Wrightsville, and Sharon's Sweet Shop, located in Jackson Township.
Melanie Schmuck sold homemade baked goods out of the Shoe House during her ownership, so it was a way of continuing that tradition, her mother-in-law said.
The Haines Shoe House also is continuing its partnership with Manchester Township ice cream maker Beck's and will be selling its classic flavors: chocolate marshmallow, peanut butter ripple, vanilla and mint chocolate chip — and raspberry ice cream sandwiches. It was Melanie Schmuck who decided to turn the Shoe House into a museum.
The day of its 2019 opening, Diane Schmuck was giving one of the five-level attraction's signature tours, pointing out ways in which her daughter-in-law left her mark.
A wedding dress from Melanie Schmuck's grandmother — who just turned 90 in late February — is hanging in one of the bedrooms to represent what someone who stayed there in its early days might have worn.
She put a lot of work into maintaining and expanding the museum, and customers continue to bring in memorabilia and share stories about the building, located at 197 Shoe House Road and visible from Route 30.
Richard Raesh, of Manchester Township, said he worked with Melanie over the past two years to obtain the Shoe House blueprints from his employer, C.S. Davidson Inc., an engineering firm with an office in York City.
"I was really sorry to hear her go," he said. "She had a great passion for this project."
If You Go:
Where: 197 Shoe House Road, York, Pa. 17406
Hours: 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday through Sunday