|The Ivy Bear Returns posted on 11/02/2012|
The Ivy Bear has lumbered back to town.
The historic edifice, in Alder Creek, reopened Nov. 1.
On the surface, it’s a pizza parlor. But you might not notice right away.
First, you have to get past the 34-foot wire mesh and ivy bear that towers over the building – which in itself is not all that easy to do. The bear lights up at night. And when you get too close, it growls.
Then there’s the pond that serves as a mirror to the surroundings. Of course, it’s full of koi fish.
Once inside, it’s as much a museum as a pizza parlor.
"I’m a history buff," said Eric Olsen, the self-described money man behind the operation. "And look around. There’s history everywhere."
It thunders down from the 8 foot by 30 foot Solis mural – complete with a magical bear, and, if you look closely, Bigfoot – to the table mats placed on old-growth fir tables, each one depicting different moments in Oregon history.
There are arrowheads, wagon fittings from the Oregon Trail, old photos, and, get this, a slab of fossilized dinosaur dung. (None of these items appear on the menu.)
But make no mistake, it’s still a pizza parlor, proprietor Scott Olsen – son of Eric – assures us.
"Our pizza isn’t like other pizzas," Scott said. "Our sauce has no oil, water or sugar. Just tomatoes, wine and spices. We don’t try to cover up bad tomatoes with sugar.
The cheese is special as well.
"We get our cheese from the Willamette Valley Cheese Company," Scott said. "It’s a completely organic farm, and the cheese comes from Jersey cows – the best."
Scott believes this opportunity is an intervention of fate. Growing up in Salem, he would come to Mount Hood to ski every chance he got.
"I’d sleep in my Jetta at Meadows," he said. I came here the first time when I was 8, and from an early age I’ve always wanted to live here."
The Ivy Bear has a colorful past, dating back to the early 1900s. It started with bear fights held across the "street" – now Hwy. 26.
"It slowly became the house of a bootlegger (in 1945)," Eric Olsen said. "And rumor has it a brothel as well."
Later, around 1987, the building blew down. It was rebuilt in the late 90s by a group who called themselves "The Friends of the Ivy Bear."
"They built it out of concrete and steel, to last a million years," Eric said.
The bear soon gained mystical status, as bears are wont to do.
"People would honk when they drove by, for good luck," Eric said. "Then, it became important to raise your feet in the car when you drove by, or else your ski trip was not going to end the way you wanted."
Now, the reborn, sometimes mystical, always historical, Ivy Bear is open for business. And there’s draft beer, mozzarella sticks, apple and cherry turnovers – all the things that make a pizza parlor.
But if you walk too close to the 34-foot bear, walk softly and remember, you’ve been warned.
by Larry Berteau/MT