The Goldendale Sentinel - Headlines & History since 1879

By Shelby Taylor
Reporter 

Histories and mysteries of Goldendale businesses: General Store rich in history, mystery, and goods

 

Shelby Taylor

GENERALLY SPEAKING: The gas pump outside the General Store building is original, installed in 1925. It still shows 1920s prices.

You may remember the Steven Wright joke: "I went to a general store. They wouldn't let me buy anything specific."

Not true for Goldendale's General Store at 129 E. Main Street. Here, you can pick up a great deal of specific items, including some you may not have thought were in store.

Owned by the Methes (Jack and Kim) and the Ruthardts (Erick and Ella), the General Store harkens to an earlier era and still reminds some of an old-West storefront. The building certainly goes back long enough to qualify. It was built in the aftermath of the 1888 fire that destroyed seven blocks of Goldendale. It occurred to builders of the time that brick would be a lot harder to burn, so up went several brick buildings. In 1890 the building was the location of the I.C. Darland Livery Stable-which burned down around 1915. In 1923 the site was occupied by the Nickerson Olsen Motor Company. In the Goldendale Sentinel of May 21, 1925, was this item:  "The Nickerson-Olsen Motor Co. installed a new visible Bower gasoline of modern design the past week. The new pump delivers 10 gallons of gasoline to a glass receptacle, which any amount may be drawn for the customer. An underground storage tank of 550 gallons capacity was also installed." Olsen died in 1928, leaving the company to Nickerson until his own passing in 1941.

From 1943 to 1960, the location was home to Wilson Implement Company, owned by Elmer and Charles L. Wilson. Stories have been told of kids stealing tractors and lining them up on the road and getting into trouble. Other businesses at the location include Goldendale Equipment (1960 to June 1981); Goldendale True Value Hardware (June 1983 to July 1986); and Mid Columbia Motor Freight (June 1984 – 1985).

The building is sinking slowly in its back left corner, and the Methes point out that there is a creek running under it. At one point the creek rose some four feet in the basement.

Kim Methe grew up in Hood River with her parents, though her dad's liquidation hobby out of their home garage and strong family ties led him to pursue business here in Goldendale in about 1983. The extension of the family includes local names such as Ruthardts, Browns, Starks, Lunds, Lowes, Mansfields, and more. Uniquely known were the "Golden Six," consisting of Darlene and Norman Lund, Berta and Terry Lowe, and Erick and Ella Ruthardt, who pursued ownership of many businesses including a local restaurant, an office supply store, 98 Cent Store, and, in 1989, the General Store we know today.

Another well-known name in the area is Kim's great, great uncle Frederick Ruthardt, who was known as a toy inventor in the area. He infamously lived in a shack on the Klickitat River.

More impressively is the family's relation to Browns, or more specifically, Albert J. Brown, dubbed the first settler of Centerville in Klickitat County.

Upon the store's initial opening, the General Store featured popcorn for its customers. The popcorn maker used was the same used by Kim's Great Aunt Helen Starks (maiden name Mansfield), who had used the popcorn maker in her 20s (while) working at Goldendale's local Star Theater. Starks was known for her dramatic costume jewelry and unfailingly detailed color coordination. "She always dressed to match," remembers Kim. "If she wore lavender, everything was lavender. Her hair was always big, poofy, and perfect. She always had glitzy earrings and rings. She always wore this watch ring with a matching watch necklace." The store still possesses the popcorn maker, though due to a small piece needing replacement, it is patiently waiting charitable attention to be brought back to life.

Anybody want popcorn?

At the time, the store featured various items ranging from furniture, 98 cent store supplies, random liquidation inventory, a UPS outlet, cell phone services, satellites, and other items. As the Golden Six aged and the multitude of items grew too much, the family downsized the business and abdicate ownership.

Jack and Kim began their relationship in 2003 upon meeting in Jack's homeland of New Orleans. The duo took just one year to tie the knot in Kim's hometown of Hood River.

After working 20 plus years as a Supervisor for a shipbuilding company, Jack was interested in investing in his own hardware store.

Jack and Kim relocated to the area in 2006, just one year after Hurricane Katrina, purchased their shares of the General Store, and tried to build the store back up.

Initially, things were going great-until the economic bust of 2008.

The comeback from the economic backlash has proven to be difficult for the family. "Right now, we don't even know what to build up, or what to do," Kim says. "People have lost their hometown-shop-local beliefs. They say that the younger crowd doesn't like to go to different stores to buy certain things. But there's so many small and urban areas like places in Portland where people go to those districts, shop in those districts, and keep businesses in those districts."

Kim has tried to encourage business at the General Store by specifically ordering and stocking items that she knows certain people in business need. Those that need something specific or need to travel somewhere specifically for an item can request the items from the General Store.

"I understand why some people go to Walmart, but honestly, there's many things where I can beat their price," she says. "I tell people that I try really hard to keep things on the shelf of products for certain people. I'll always accept special requests for certain things."

Unfortunately, three of the four people at the General Store have been forced to pursue outside employment, leaving just Jack in charge of the store full time.

Kim points out that the General Store currently features many household items. "We have upped the office supply and computer supply stuff," she says. "There are school supplies. Art supplies. party supplies, helium balloons, computer electronic repair, cook and bakeware, pet supplies, cleaning supplies."

The store also features many other household and gift items, along with a unique library-like room located at the back of the store, containing hundreds of books ranging from old to new, typically priced at $1 to $5.

This anything but general store has a long standing history here in the town of Goldendale. Its location, owners, and services have contributed much to this town, so don't forget your local stores, generally speaking.

 

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