~story and photo by Bob Gustin
Sorghum has returned to Gnaw Bone. But this time it’s not a horse walking around a mill to grind down the sweet plant and later have it boiled into syrup. It’s a lot more than that.
This time it’s the brand new Gnaw Bone Country Store and Bakery, operated by Brown County residents Jay and Jenny Morrison.
The Morrisons have spent months cleaning, repairing and remodeling the store at 4883 State Road 46 E, and are now open every day except Tuesday. On other days, the store is open 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. except Sunday, when hours are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
That’s the same building in the heart of Gnaw Bone (between Nashville and Columbus) where the Roberts family opened a sorghum mill in 1948 to grow, grist, and cook sorghum over a wood fire. The business was sold to Bill Watkins about 10 years ago, and purchased in December by Mike and Tammy Riebl, who lease the store to the Morrisons.
There is no longer a mill at the site, but you can find several varieties of fresh-baked sorghum cookies available each day. Jenny is also cooking up persimmon pudding, bacon brownies, pies, cakes, breads, and tarts.
And Jay, along with partners Mike Riebl and Jonny Porter, are custom-building unique lightweight solar-powered camping trailers in a nearby shop, and offering them for sale.
Along with baked goods, the store offers sauces, syrups, jams and jellies, coffee, pasta, honey, sorghum, soaps, and dog treats. Most are custom items from Indiana producers. Where else could you try a product called Gnaw Bone Toe Jam?
Food isn’t the only thing Jay and Jenny carry. A sampling of arts and fine crafts from ten local and area residents—including paintings, pottery, weaving, stained glass, jewelry, note cards, driftwood art, clothing, and craft kits—are on display.
The store also carries antique and vintage items, custom wood furniture, Gnaw Bone T-shirts, candies, and colorful socks. And there is more to come in the 6,000 square-foot store.
If that seems like an eclectic mix, it is. Asked about the unusual collection of items available, Jay smiles and simply said, “It’s a country store.”
“With the space I have, I wanted to showcase local products,” Jenny said. “I have a love for antiques and we wanted to make the place different than a typical tourist destination.
“It was meant to be,” Jenny said. “I’m just surrounded by incredibly talented friends, and I want to showcase and support the people I’m surrounded by.
“I enjoy feeding and pleasing people,” she said, “and baking is a creative outlet for me.”
She credits her mother, Andrea Cline, with being patient and letting Jenny play around in the kitchen growing up, making a mess, and having the freedom to experiment.
Then, in her 20s, Jenny began reading cookbooks and experimenting more with cooking, and especially baking. She operated a cleaning business for about 20 years with clients in Brown, Bartholomew, Monroe, and Marion counties. She has also cooked for large get-togethers and has done small catering jobs.
“But it was always my dream to have my own baking business,” she said, “And the opportunity was thrown in my lap.”
That happened when Jay, owner of Oak Grove Construction, a general contractor in Brown County and Columbus, partnered with Riebl and Porter to build Gnaw Bone Wilderness Cabins.
“Mike and I have been backpacking and camping buddies for the last 12 years of so,” Jay said. “Last summer we hiked the Grand Tetons. At 50 years old, I was getting tired of setting up tents, and thought others must be too.”
Turns out Riebl, an engineer, felt the same way. So they started building a prototype cabin in Riebl’s garage, finished it up in Jay’s pole barn, and, along with Porter, began looking for a place to build and sell them. The old sorghum mill and adjacent property was available and Riebl purchased it.
The cabins are built on a 6- by 12-foot steel frame trailer to which a rubber liner is added before metal studs, insulation, vapor barriers, tongue-and-groove lumber, vinyl flooring, and a metal roof is added. There are two bunk bed spaces, a table and bench, storage areas, windows, and a separate space for a camping toilet to be set up. It’s powered by two rooftop solar panels, a battery, and power inverter. A small wood stove is an option.
The cabin weighs about 3,000 pounds, can be easily pulled by a standard pickup or midsized SUV, and sells for about $16,000. Trailers can also be rented for $75 a night. Later, larger or customized cabins can also be ordered.
But the Gnaw Bone Country Store and Bakery is a family affair. Jay remodeled the store, with help from son Alex and lots of friends. Daughter Chloe runs the retail area, and Jay says his part of the store is “making sure everything is ready for Jenny to pursue her dream.”
One of his jobs is to work with Jenny as a “picker” to find eclectic goods from people in the area.
“It’s a local tasting of goods offered you don’t always see,” he said.
Contact Jenny and Jay Morrison at (812) 988-4266, or <email@example.com>. Also check out <gnawbonebakery.com> and <gnawbonecabins.com>.