As Christmas draws near, Spokane shoppers can rejoice knowing that many of the area’s longtime retail businesses are going strong with the help of loyal customers.
Online retailing has put a dent in sales, but business owners are committed to providing top service, competitive prices and a well-designed mix of products to stave off the trend away from brick-and-mortar retail shopping.
Two White Elephant stores, at 1730 N. Division St. and 12614 E. Sprague Ave., boast probably the largest selections of toys year-round in Spokane along with outdoor sporting goods for fishing and hunting.
“We are a toy store for all ages,” said Katie Conley Mustered, who manages the Division store with the Conley family owners.
The late John Conley started the White Elephant in 1946, originally selling military surplus on East Sprague. Eventually he moved the store to its current North Division location. The Spokane Valley store opened in 1978.
Mustered said being in business for so long means the stores have a lot of longtime customers who make a habit of shopping at the White Elephant. And they’ve kept prices competitive with a smart and simple wholesale strategy.
“Our goal is to get the best prices wholesale and pass them on to our customers,” she said.
A similar story can be found just up Division Street at the General Store.
Bruce Barany said his father, William S. Barany, started General Store as a military surplus outlet in 1946 on Riverside Avenue. William Barany died earlier this year at age 100.
The General Store took over its current location at 2424 N. Division St. in 1959.
Bruce Barany said he is amazed by the number of customers and former employees he has met over the years.
Running a family store “gives me a sense of community, a sense of belonging,” he said.
The General Store has been a big contributor to local causes, including Toys for Tots, Scouts, Salvation Army, Union Gospel Mission and the West Central Community Center.
“I hope we can retain our loyal customers,” Bruce Barany said. “I know them by sight.”
Nearby at Jim’s Home Brew Supply, 2619 N. Division St., there is plenty of holiday cheer.
The store’s current co-owner, James Johnson, said the business dates to 1952. They have stayed in business in part by keeping up with trends in fermentation. Along with supplies for beer and wine making, the store also has branched out into food fermentation supplies, including popular Asian recipes.
Johnson said the popularity of home hobbies along with an abundance of fruit and other produce in Spokane has kept his shop bubbling.
Many customers call frequently for advice. “Their success is our success,” he said.
At 3131 N. Division St. in a store overlooking downtown and the North Side is Pounder’s Jewelry, also focused on customer loyalty.
On Thursday, C.J. and Andrea Pounder were working with a couple purchasing a custom ring. The couple also are their neighbors.
Other family members work in the store as well.
“It is a privilege to share our story with the community,”Andrea Pounder said.
Started as a watch repair business in 1956 by Jim Pounder at Opportunity in the Spokane Valley, the store today specializes in fine jewelry and watches while continuing its repair business.
“We offer our customers exceptional service,” Pounder said. “It is personal and it is an experience.”
With jewelers on site, Pounder’s offers fine custom-designed pieces.
Across the city at Liberty Park Florist and Greenhouse, 1401 E. Newark Ave., the story about loyal customers and great service gets repeated.
Their entire stock of holiday poinsettias, with the exception of some larger poinsettia “trees,” was virtually sold out as of Thursday.
The business was started by Dominic Alice in 1928 and continued under the late Joe Alice, who died in 2001.
Today, Jim and Kellee Alice run the neighborhood shop in the South Perry District in its original location.
“We take pride in everything that goes out,” Kellee Alice said. “It has our family name on it.”
She said she also wants to do a good job to honor the memory of the founder and his late son.
Part of the Liberty Park success comes from the Alices’ longtime loyal employees.
Colleen Sullivan, a skilled horticulturalist, has been there for 17 years. She has two associate degrees, in greenhouse management and landscape and turf maintenance, from Spokane Community College. And to top that off, she obtained a bachelor’s degree in horticulture from Washington State University.
Her co-worker Delores Hove was invited to apply for her job 20 years ago by a friend who was a manager at the time. She lived across the street from the shop.
While numerous nurseries and floral shops have fallen by the wayside in Spokane, Liberty Park is thriving on hard work and keeping up with trends.
Jim Alice said his seasons never stop. As soon as he sold out his poinsettia crop, new geranium starts were planted for the first of his spring crops. More shipments for spring sales are on the way, he said.
There are many other longtime retailers in Spokane, including Dodson’s Jewelry, 516 W. Riverside Ave.
Fourth-generation owner John Penn Fix III said in November the store is closing in the near future after 131 years in business.
Peters Hardware, 12118 E. Sprague Ave., opened as a family business in 1934. It is now operated by the third generation of the Peters family.
Miller’s Hardware has operated since 1951 at 2908 E. Regal Ave.
Huppin’s electronics store, 8016 N. Division St., began in 1908 as a tailor shop under Russian immigrant Sam Huppin. The Spokane business was handed down through family and around 1953 started selling electronics. In its early years, it was a pawnbroker and retailer of military insignia, men’s clothing and luggage, according to the company website.
Murray Huppin, president and great-grandson of the founder, has expanded the store’s online presence and led the consolidation of retail sales from downtown to North Division, its present site.
Spokandy, purveyor of fine chocolates and other sweet treats, opened in 1913 and is located at 1412 W. Third Ave. The candymaker still uses its historic methods, according to its website.
Also dating to 1913 is Hoffman Music, 1430 N. Monroe St. The shop dates back to Bill Hoffman and was originally located on Sprague Avenue across from the Davenport Hotel.
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