Business

Skagit Farmers Supply opens new store in Freeland

George Vasil accepts a $50 gift card to Skagit Farmers Supply Country Store from store manager Rick Gauver for being the new store’s first cash customer. - Ben Watanabe / The Record
George Vasil accepts a $50 gift card to Skagit Farmers Supply Country Store from store manager Rick Gauver for being the new store’s first cash customer.
— image credit: Ben Watanabe / The Record

FREELAND — There’s a new, old store in Freeland. And it’s big.

Skagit Farmers Supply Country Store opened its new 18,000-square-foot location on Cameron Road on Monday.

If drivers and passers-by didn’t know it was open, that’s because there’s still some work to be done. Doors opened for customers at 8 a.m., but the sign facing Highway 525 and banners announcing the store’s opening had not arrived in time. Workers were building a trellis for the outdoor garden center, too.

“The sign company is picking that up and we’ll have that today or tomorrow so people will actually know who we are,” said store manager Rick Gauver.

He said some people came in and thought it was an extension for Nichols Brothers Boat Builders.

The lack of signage didn’t deter the dozen or so customers who came in for dog food, clothing and just to look around the new 12,500 square feet of retail space. It was the store’s “soft” opening, which Gauver said gives the staff the chance to work out any snags in service.

A grand opening, complete with giveaways and discounts, is scheduled for Nov. 11. For the duration of the grand opening weekend, freebies such as free cat, dog and horse food for a year will continue.

Customers were told the store would open Monday. And it indeed did, thanks to lots of 12-hour days for employees like Alicia Landry. She said she and her co-workers would work their normal hours at the old store just a mile south in Freeland, then put in a few hours at the new location.

“The average employee worked 12 hours a day for almost two weeks straight,” Gauver said. “They were very dedicated.”

They stocked shelves, tagged products and hung clothing feverishly Friday night when the final shelving units arrived for the two aisles of dog food.

“There’s definitely a lot more variety of things and a bigger selection,” Landry said. “I think our customers will be overwhelmed and overjoyed.”

The novelty of the grand opening is in the date: 11/11/11. It may also reflect the store’s growth from 11 employees at its previous location to 21. Each department will also have its own specialist.

“With all the employees, we’re going to have better customer service,” Gauver said.

The old building is leased to Habitat for Humanity of Island County, which will assume the lease Nov. 1. How the building will be used has yet to be determined, but it will be a store.

“Our intent is to take advantage of the good support we receive from South Whidbey with furniture, as well as some other used building supplies and recycled building supplies,” said Habitat for Humanity executive director Calvin Hewitt.

“We’ve still got some details to work out.”

Work began on the new  supply store building in March. As its customer base increased, the store’s needs outgrew its capacity. Gauver gave an example of stacking different brands of dog food on top of one another because there wasn’t anywhere else to put them. The extra retail space allows for a greater selection for the customers.

“We have a huge amount of clothing compared to what we used to have,” he said. “Our dog food area has more than tripled ... we used to barber pole our dog food.”

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