The home's kitchen has room for family and friends to visit.  GRETCHEN MENSINK LOVEJOY/BLUFF COUNTRY NEWSPAPERS
The home's kitchen has room for family and friends to visit. GRETCHEN MENSINK LOVEJOY/BLUFF COUNTRY NEWSPAPERS
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Todd Jones and Jill Klepper have hoed a flaming long row.

At the end, they've found true value in a cracked foundation on their doorstep.

"We weren't actually looking for a house, but it just landed on our doorstep," said Jill, speaking of the house that she and Todd renovated in Spring Valley to make a home for themselves and their 6-year-old daughter, Cassie.

The owners of Spring Valley's True Value Hardware store were living above the store in the building where Todd had grown up, working for his parents as they kept the town supplied with nuts, bolts, hammers and paint, happy to be a part of the downtown business community. Jill had just completed her massage therapy schooling so that she could walk to her studio at the salon across the street and Todd was busy serving customers who know they can rely on him to find parts for what they needed to repair. Cassie spent her days in the store, rearranging the giftware, holding tea parties using glassware she knew she wasn't supposed to touch, and napping on the Astroturf-covered store window.

Then things turned completely upside down.

Jill and Todd were hosting a high school graduation party at Good Earth Village, north of Spring Valley, for Jill's son, Max, on June 4, 2011, when they received a phone call asking if they had anything lit inside the hardware store. A Spring Valley firefighter himself, Todd's reaction to the caller was, "No, it's June...shouldn't be anything burning in there. Call the fire department."

The Spring Valley Fire Department forged into the building unaware of the difficulties they'd encounter inside, including a broken water main that flooded the basement, unstable floors and ceilings and the prospect of hardware store chemical products combusting.

Concerned community members passed by, bringing lawn chairs and sitting down to watch as the firefighters cleared the basement and first floor, then called it a night.

At first, the couple thought they'd be able to quickly recover from the fire's effects, but the reality was, in spite of "50 people lined up at the door the next morning waiting to help," they were in transition for the long haul.

"We were at Good Earth Village for a week, and then we spent the next year and a half living with Bob and Rhoda," Todd related, noting that his parents graciously allowed them to move into their finished basement.

"We thought that it would be two to three weeks, then we could move back into our apartment again," they concurred.

The community held a benefit for them and wished them well - Todd even auctioned off his years-long ponytail during the benefit and donated it to Locks of Love - and the waiting for the family to be able to re-open the store began.

Of course, multigenerational living isn't always easy for everyone involved, so the family strove to renovate their fixer-upper home as soon as they could manage.

Jill recounted that they were without their own place to land for "20 months and 10 days," and she asked to have a home by the time she celebrated her 40th birthday.

Todd commented, "We bought the house on Dec. 10, 2010, and we were picking away at it on weekends, but after the fire, we went into full gear. After the fire, it was from the bottom of the totem pole, fixing as we go, to we need to get a roof over our heads as soon as possible."

Given that there was a crawl space underneath the main living quarters, their first thought was to "jack up the house and level it off underneath, but the foundation cracked and the wall caved in."

Their second first thought was the house simply needed new siding on the back after tearing off the east wall and fixing what needed the most attention since it actually had new vinyl siding and new windows. However, upon closer inspection, it needed new everything, and if it were to have new siding, there wouldn't be enough to go all the way around from the back of the house.

By that point of perusal, the couple took a family member's and general contractor Josh Liebfried's advice to just build a second story onto the back of the house.

Todd - who admits that he "sells hammers" but doesn't "know how to use them" - consulted Liebfried, who told him "what we could and couldn't do" and straightened him out when the design, which was left to the multi-tasking Todd, wasn't going to make any sense at all or didn't pass construction codes.

Jill didn't feel it was necessary for her to have an active role in designing the home, other than asking for items on a wish list that included a pantry, an upstairs laundry, a kitchen island or breakfast bar, a porch and a fireplace.

"The only thing we didn't get was the fireplace," she observed, but added that she does not plan on complaining. She is happy with their completed home, which has a spacious kitchen with the large breakfast counter, Amish-crafted cupboards, new appliances, a dining room, two baths, three bedrooms - one downstairs for Max when he comes home to stay and Cassie's "pink princess" explosion suite at the top of the stairs. The master bedroom is open enough to accommodate a sitting room, spacious closets and a large landing where Jill aspires to rest but more often passes by Cassie playing with her toys. There is also a cozy living room and breezy procession from room to room.

Jill and Todd managed to skid into their new home just hours under the deadline of Jill's birthday - Feb. 15 - and spent Valentine's Day unpacking what useful belongings they could find out of their storage units before welcoming Max home to visit.

She stated, "We made it just by hours."

Though they still have things to finish, such as siding the house, installing a stair railing to the upstairs portion of the open staircase, putting in LED lighting throughout the house, working on the yard and sorting through belongings that were "not packed for long term storage" in plastic garbage bags, they're pleased to call the house "home."

Jill enjoys sitting in the kitchen at the breakfast bar or relaxing in the large master bedroom. Todd likes his favorite chair in the living room and Cassie is particularly tickled by having a chandelier in her room and a television in the bathroom so she can watch cartoons while she's having a bubble bath.

(Oh, and she got a puppy).

Todd said, "We love the house, the way it turned out. Right now, we wouldn't change a thing."

The new True Value Hardware Store opened early this summer. After years of refusing to consider relocating to a store along Highways 16 and 63 because he felt "the store downtown was always going to be the hardware store," Todd is pleased with the new location.

"Instead of focusing on getting back in downtown, we took a step back," he said. What resulted was a brilliant, somewhat-planned serendipity. "We never thought this would end up being the end - things completely took a turn - but I'm a firm believer in things happening for a reason. I don't know what the reasons are yet, but we got a new store on the highway, a house with a yard in a good neighborhood and Sheldon Plumbing got a nice, renovated building downtown."

Two years, a flaming store and some crazy days later, Jill and Todd are more than happy to have a home and hoes to sell...so very glad that their row is getting easier.