It was no accident that George Dress opened a successful farm and ranch store in the Tri-Cities.
It’s what he came here to do.
Dress, the son of Greek immigrants, lived in Minnesota when he decided to open a farm supply store.
And he new location would be a key factor in his success.
Dress methodically and diligently started searching for that perfect location for the store, and he didn’t believe it was a small town in southern Minnesota.
His search led him to Pasco. While Pasco was also a small town at the time, the addition of Kennewick and Richland and the surrounding areas, there were about 70,000 people living in the Tri-Cities at the time. The area was heavily agricultural and it had a decent-sized airport.
“The airport had a lot to do with it,” said Dress, who wanted to be able to travel back to Minnesota frequently.
Dress opened the Pasco Ranch & Home store on Oregon Avenue in 1974.
“It was a hard-core farm store,” said Dress. “We still call ourselves a farm store, but now we are more of a general store.”
Dress quickly started expanding in response to customer demand. If someone needed something, he’d do his best to find it.
In 1990, George Dress brought his sons, Bill and Jeff, into the business as partners.
“Dad had the Sea Galley (restaurant) and sold it in 1988 — in 1990, he bought it back,” said Bill Dress.
In the meantime, his boys were working for their uncle in his farm stores in California. And they invented a plastic “sip top” cap with a straw that would fit over soda cans.
“We sold millions of them and we went to dad and told him we want to take the Sea Galleys,” Bill Dress said. “He said ‘no’.”
That stunned Dress’ sons.
“We asked him why and he said he wanted us to become partners,” said Bill Dress.
So the boys moved back home and became active partners in the business — showing up for work every day alongside their father.
And the business continued to grow.
The family purchased a 125,000-sq.-ft. vacant building on North Columbia Center Boulevard that was formerly a Costco and in 1999 opened the Kennewick Ranch & Home store. It was four times the size of the Pasco store, allowing the family to expand the variety of clothing, footwear, ranch supplies, pet supplies and adding a wide variety of sporting goods.
But they didn’t change the way they did business. The family members were in the store everyday, talking to customers and listening.
Being in touch with customers gave them greater insight when they went on buying trips to retail shows. When they saw new items or trends, they were able to quickly react if it was something they believed their customers would be interested in.
“We’ve hit a pretty good percentage of home runs,” said Bill Dress.
He said the family’s ability to be flexible and respond quickly to customers’ needs and desires has been a huge part of the company’s success. That’s one of the benefits family-owned retailers have over the corporate giants, he added.
And as the community continued to support the family business, the Dress family supported the community — contributing to charities, sponsoring groups and events and volunteering.
“We built this business by building good relationships — good relationships with vendors, good relationships with customers and good relationships with our employees,” Bill Dress said.
Now the company has more than 120 employees and continues to grow.
In March, it opened a new Ranch & Home store in Milton-Freewater, Oregon.
“We have been very blessed,” said Bill Dress.
The Kennewick Ranch & Home store is at 845 N. Columbia Center Blvd.; the Pasco store is at 516 N. Oregon Ave.; and the Milton-Freewater location is at 85342 Hwy. 11.
For more information, go to www.ranch-home.com.