BY EARNEST WINSTON
The Cincinnati Enquirer
RABBIT HASH - Duane Doyle walked several miles Monday afternoon to buy a bottle of Welch's orange pineapple juice from the Rabbit Hash General Store.
But it's what he can't buy that keeps him - and the town's handful of other residents - coming back to the 3.75 acres where the Boone County landmark sits on the banks of the Ohio River, across from Rising Sun, Ind.
The Flood of '97 turned the store into an island, and about 3 feet of water and mud seeped into the antique structure, said Alexis Scott, co-owner of the store with her brother, Brandon.
After several weeks of hard work, the general store reopened this weekend. The news brought a smile to Mr. Doyle's face.
''I've spent a lot of time down here, just sitting and watching the river,'' said the Rabbit Hash resident who frequents the Lower River Road store daily. ''It's the only one around - and the coldest beer in town. A lot of people from work come down. It's just a community thing. It's just the place to be.''
Mr. Doyle's pride shows when he talks about the store, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. He and others spent days helping repair the ravaged landmark. ''You've got to take care of your neighbors,'' he said.
The store is a gathering place for residents and tourists drawn by its unique name. It's quiet. Not much traffic. People who live near the tiny town don't want to see development there.
As evidenced by the fierce fight residents waged against a casino boat across the river in Rising Sun, people here want to keep the area as it is. It's a place people can come to shoot the breeze with store owners or neighbors.
Ms. Scott said the flood claimed about $1,500 in inventory. It also cost $3,000 to repair the white building, a sum that included replacing the insulation under the store, repainting the interior, and repairs to the porch and other parts of the building.
''We're tickled to death to have it back open. We're in the process of getting a Web page designed,'' said Ms. Scott. She added that several area residents spent four weeks helping to repair the store, which will get a new sign nearby for advertisement.
The two siblings bought the land - including the store - along the river Friday from their father, Lowell, who had been owner since 1977. Brandon Scott said the purchase was important for him and his sister because they wanted to keep everything the same - from the friendly atmosphere to the laid-back conversations.
''We just decided it was time for us to take our place in the community,'' said Brandon, 27.
''I've always enjoyed it because it's very quiet. You don't hear traffic in the morning ... that is special to me ... the beauty of it,'' said Alexis, 28, describing the rural surroundings.
Ms. Scott jokes the town has only five residents. ''The conversation is very casual. We don't discuss politics and religion.''
Sarah Schmidt, a clerk at Rabbit Hash's only store, began work Monday.
''I'm kind of excited because when I was little, I used to always come up here and get penny candy,'' said the 19-year-old Union resident.