PULLMAN – Tyler Klarstrom loves his job.
He said so from behind the seafood and meat counter at the Dissmore’s IGA, clad in a black apron, ball cap and blue gloves.
Klarstrom works full time at the grocery store, splitting his hours between the deli and the meat and seafood counter. He said he truly looks forward to coming to work each day.
Thursday morning, Klarstrom and his nearly 60 coworkers found out their place of work had been acquired by Rosauers, the Spokane-based grocery chain with stores across the Inland Northwest. After 85 years of business, Dissmore’s IGA will close its doors at the end of July. After a complete remodel, the building will be reopened as a new Rosauers.
“It was quite a surprise,” Klarstrom said. “But I definitely want to be here when they reopen. There’s just a lot up in the air in the meantime.”
The locally owned grocery store was started by the Dissmore family back in 1937. They operated it until Tidyman’s took it over in the late 1990s. The current owners, Archie and Shelley McGregor, bought the store in 2006 and kept the Dissmore name to honor the family’s legacy.
Archie McGregor said Rosauers has inquired about purchasing the store for several years, and that it finally felt like the right time to move on. He comes from a three-generation family of grocers who owned and operated stores in Eastern Washington and North Idaho.
He said he will miss interacting with the many customers he developed relationships with over the years, and that the Pullman community deserves a modern grocery store like Rosauers. He believes their emphasis on fresh, organic produce will fill a gap in current offerings in the Pullman area.
“We’re getting everything done up here, and then we’ll see what’s next, whatever the next adventure is,” Archie McGregor said.
Dissmore’s IGA is liquidating their inventory ahead of its closing, offering discounts on everything in the store from pet supplies to Fireball whiskey. When Rosauers assumes ownership, the store will close for a remodel that could take anywhere from three to nine months, said Rosauers Vice-President Mike Shirts.
“Dissmore’s has a great reputation. It’s just in need of updating and a little more modernizing,” Shirts said. “I think that, certainly, the great reputation and the great location it has will serve us well.”
Shirts said the company is offering preferential hiring to all Dissmore’s IGA employees. While the offer extends to all of the grocery chain’s locations, most employees are hoping to find jobs at stores in neighboring Colfax, Moscow or Lewiston during the remodel.
A sales price was not disclosed.
Klarstrom said he is grateful the store was taken over by a company like Rosauers, which offers competitive wages and is already established in the area. He plans on working at one of the nearby locations during the remodel and is eager to return to Pullman, whenever that may be.
He rests easy knowing the commute will only be temporary, and said Rosauers has been clear and communicative since the news broke. Several members of Rosauers’ executive staff visited with employees on Friday.
For Dissmore’s IGA employee Michel Alison, the change of ownership comes at an already difficult time. Her husband died in February, and she said the closure adds to the stress she is already dealing with.
Alison lives in the nearby community of Albion, so working at the Colfax Rosauers would be more manageable than a position in Moscow or Lewiston. With the cost of gas reaching record highs, she said she is concerned about a long commute.
“I would love to come back, though,” Alison said. “I love my customers here and I’ve really gotten to know a lot of them.”
The closure of Dissmore’s IGA also marks the closure of the Chinese deli inside, a popular lunch spot for locals and students. While the coffee stand inside the store is part of Dissmore’s IGA, Chinatown Café is a separate entity owned and operated by Jose and Zoey Thai.
The Thais opened Chinatown Café in 2016 after working in the food industry for years. They met while working at the restaurant Golden Teriyaki, located just down the street from the grocery store. Jose Thai said the sale came as a surprise.
“It didn’t really hit me at first, but then as I had to explain it to customers one by one, it really sunk in,” Jose Thai said. “A lot of our customers have become good friends. We really appreciate all the support we’ve gotten from the community over the years.”
Zoey Thai said they hope to move the business into a space of their own and start a restaurant. Shirts said they are open to reaching a new agreement with the Thais, but he understands the financial strain of closing for several months would be hard to bear.
WSU alum Frank Brou fondly remembers shopping at Dissmore’s IGA while he lived in Pullman. Brou graduated in 1979 and is soon retiring from his position as a principal in the East Valley School District.
Brou said he purchased his first power tool at the grocery store in 1976, when the store was still owned and operated by the Dissmore family. He bought a Black+Decker jig saw, some screws and some brackets to build a few projects for his elementary education courses.
“It was like an everything store; it had a hardware section, that’s where we bought our groceries and that’s where we bought our beer,” Brou said.
WSU alum Liz Brown said her family stops at Dissmore’s every time they visit Pullman for the bakery’s maple bars. With four generations of Cougars in the family, she has made several visits since graduating in 1980.
Brown and her family try to catch as many home football games as possible, despite the long commute from her home in Olympia. She said she brings a dozen maple bars to kick off their family tailgate in the RV lot, and that she hopes Rosauers will get the recipe so she can continue the tradition.
Shirts said Rosauers is looking forward to rejoining the Pullman community. The company used to have a location in Pullman years ago, and they have looked at re-entering the market there for quite some time.
“We’re excited to bring fresh, natural, organic produce and a different shopping experience to the people of Pullman, and we’re certainly doing what we can for the employees that are existing there today with offering them jobs in our other stores, as best we can, depending on what their flexibility is and their needs,” Shirts said.