Laura Dean Bennett
Located beside the Greenbrier River, Jack Horner’s Corner has become an institution in the little village of Seebert.
If you’ve ever stayed in a cabin or at the campground at Watoga State Park, chances are you are very well acquainted with Jack and Chrissie Horner’s popular restaurant and store.
Jack and Chrissie are a great team – they do everything together.
They built the business and have owned and operated Jack Horner’s Corner for 27 years.
The store and restaurant open in April and go gang busters until late October.
The couple doesn’t have a terribly long commute – they live upstairs over the store.
Outdoor enthusiasts make their way to Jack Horner’s Corner to rent boats, bikes and inner tubes – everything needed for having fun on the river.
They also stop by to get a slice of the mouth-watering pizza or the scrumptious soft-serve ice cream that has helped to give the shop its decades-long reputation as a good place for food.
“Our customers love our pizza and our ice cream,” Jack said.
“In 1995 or ‘96, we started with this ice cream brand called Monticello. It was really, really good.
“When we started having trouble getting it, we went through several suppliers, until we found one that carried it.
“We wanted to stay with this brand because it’s just the best,” he explained.
“Our ice cream pulls people out of the park, out of the campground and off the Greenbrier River Trail.”
Jack and Chrissie bought the business from Doris (Dotty) Hiner in 2008. At that time, it was the Seebert General Store.
The do-it-yourself couple had big plans for the store and almost immediately began building on to the original structure.
“Chrissie and I always liked watching those home improvement shows,” Jack said.
“We’d see something on one of those shows and we’d say, ‘Well, we could do that.’”
And, lo and behold, they could.
They eventually made space for canoe, bike and inner tube rentals, video games, pool tables and a store which contains an impressive inventory.
In addition to souvenirs, fishing tackle and bike supplies, there’s a wide selection of casual outdoor clothing and cute T-shirts that double as mementos of Watoga, and an assortment of clothing and toys for younger patrons.
They carry waterproof bags for going on – or maybe even in the river – and backpacks for biking and hiking.
For indoor recreation, there are video games and pool tables.
There have movies to rent – perfect for those occasional rainy days.
Jack has been working in Watoga State Park since he was a youngster so he knows a little about what park guests want and need.
In the early 1980s, when he was a teenager, he came down with his parents, Jack and Diane Horner, from their farm in Green Bank to work summers at Watoga.
“My parents had the riding stable over at Snowshoe, but they were approached by Watoga and agreed to move their summer business to the park,” Jack recalled.
“Of course, I worked with my parents.
“It was a lot of work, but it was also a lot of fun,” he laughed.
“We lived in the apartment in the stable.
“We never made much money, but I really liked working with the horses.
“I did the horses during the day and then did whatever program the park needed help with at night,” he recalled.
“For a long time, it was horses in the summer down at Watoga and working up at Snowshoe in the winter.
“Like a lot of us locals, I took all kinds of jobs up at Snowshoe. I did housekeeping, front desk, snow removal and lifeguarding. I worked at the Welcome Center and the gift shops.
“But I skied on my days off,” he added, smiling.
“Watoga’s really been like home to my whole family all these years,” he said.
And it still is.
It’s where he met and married his wife, Chrissie.
Chrissie’s family came to Watoga for a camping vacation in the summer of 1995, and that’s when Jack and Chrissie met.
“Chrissie was looking to rent a bike one day, and I couldn’t help but notice that she was pretty cute, so I didn’t waste any time,” Jack said, laughing.