Bruce Barany remembers when the General Store’s 75th anniversary once felt “lightyears away.”
That was around a decade or so ago for Barany, who owns the Spokane-based business. It didn’t quite strike him how fast time passed until a few years ago, when his general manager told him they would need to start sprucing up the store in anticipation of the milestone.
“Even two years ago, it was like, ‘God, 75,’ ” Barany said. “It reminds me of my dad when he was 65 … we sat down for lunch. He got up, and he was stiff because we had been walking all morning. He just said to me, ‘God, I never thought I’d get old.’ That was when he was 65, and he lived on to be 100.
“I guess it’s one of those moments when you think it’s some far off thing in the future,” he added, “and it seems so far away that it’s like a mirage.”
Fast forward to now, the General Store is celebrating its 75th anniversary with the announcement of a new, approximately 13,000-square-foot location next to the Yoke’s on North Liberty Lake Road.
As with the business’ other locations, the Liberty Lake spot will be a core Ace Hardware store. The store will also have a bevy of other merchandise, such as home improvement goods, a lawn and garden center and gear for fishing and marine activities.
The General Store is hoping to open the new location around early next year. Barany said plans still have to go through the local planning process.
“It’s hard to be everything to everybody when you only have 12,500 square feet, but we will have a pretty full store,” Barany said. “I’ve been casting around a number of different directions for quite a while, and the Liberty Lake area really is a happening community.”
Rob Wilson, general manager of the General Store, said management is planning out the store’s offerings to match the needs and interests of Liberty Lake residents.
“We want to make it so when someone comes to visit Liberty Lake, we’re kind of the go-to spot,” Wilson said. “Our customer service is going to be the best of any hardware business in the area, and then have the fishing knowledge out there will help out along with some camping, the garden (center) and everything like that. It should be a perfect neighborhood for us.”
Liberty Lake will be the General Store’s third location. The General Store Outpost opened in 2012 on North Argonne Road in Spokane Valley.
The General Store’s main location opened on West Riverside Avenue in the summer of 1946. Barany’s father, William, opened the military surplus business under the name General Surplus Store.
The store made the big move around 1962 to 2424 N. Division St., which went through a series of expansions over the decades to eventually occupy the entire block between East Jackson and East Carlisle avenues, Barany said.
“It’s amazing. We’ve had three generations of people work here,” Barany said. “It’s truly a family store.”
He can recall feelings of dread when big-box stores such as K-Mart started opening across Spokane.
“We could hear the death row drum knells playing,” Barany said.
Wilson, who frequented the General Store growing up in Spokane before later working there, said the store stands out in making sure its customers have what they need.
“Each manager is their own buyer for their department, and they’re able to source the product that our customers are looking for from a variety of different distributors and manufacturers to specifically carry what we know will sell,” he said. “Even through the summer events where everybody is out of those hard to find items for summer – the squirt guns, the inflatables, stuff like that – we’re able to source that stuff and keep it in stock.”
Barany added, “That has always been our ability, that in times of need, we’re able to run down the sources of supply and having the merchandise.”
Barany characterized that perseverance and flexibility to keep shelves stocked, especially during emergencies such as power outages, as a few of the keys to the General Store’s success.
Another, he said, is the Spokane community itself.
“We’re very appreciative to the citizens of the city of Spokane and to the citizens of the inland empire for making the 75 years happen,” Barany said. “Without them, we wouldn’t be here.”
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