Good news for the John Day economy: Chester’s Thriftway plans to expand into the former King’s Discount Store next door and open up a variety department.
Six to eight jobs will be created, according to Bill Wyllie, operational manager for the three Chester’s stores in Oregon, and a wide variety of consumer goods locals have been asking for will be available.
“People tell me they miss some things,” he said. “We initially felt someone else would fill that role.”
Wyllie said Chester’s was also concerned about the empty stores in the John Day Plaza — King’s, the former Mountains Department Store and the closing Muzzy’s 123 Dollar Store — and how that could affect their business. A lifelong resident of John Day, Wyllie said he was also concerned about how the community could be impacted.
“King’s being closed was a company-wide closure,” he said. “The location in John Day was actually one of their best locations for product movement. This means that King’s was a needed store in John Day, and it is a negative impact to Grant County losing this resource.”
At this point, the plan is to punch an opening through the common wall near the back of Chester’s, linking the two stores. The door to the parking lot at the former King’s store will not be used by customers who will pay for their items at Chester’s checkout counters, Wyllie said.
This will be Chester’s first variety department, Wyllie said. The company is finalizing the purchase of the former King’s store and has made arrangements with Variety Distributors Inc. to help set up the merchandise on the shelves. VDI will continue in its role as a supplier to Chester’s, Wyllie said.
“VDI offers 20,000 everyday available items and another 20,000 seasonal items,” Wyllie said.
Items similar to what King’s offered will include gift wrap, art and craft supplies, toys and games, books, seasonal decorations, picture frames and art, office supplies, bath and kitchen linens and fabric and sewing supplies.
In the future, possibly with VDI’s assistance, the new department could offer basic clothing items like jeans, T-shirts, sweatshirts and socks, along with basic shoe offerings and garden items, Wyllie said.
The expansion will also allow Chester’s to expand its current offerings in dog food, paper towels and bath tissue, grab-and-go food and drinks for travelers, bulk food and produce space for melons and fruits of the season.
“The vision of this project is to positively impact the community by providing more of the items we need without having to travel out of town or wait for it to arrive in the mail,” Wyllie said. “This will also bolster the community’s recent job losses by providing six to eight new jobs for our residents.”
Wyllie said the expansion will create a new manager position at $17 to $22 per hour, two supervisor positions at $13 to $15 per hour and several other positions.
There’s a lot of work to do — remodeling includes matching the decor in Chester’s and hanging new LED lighting — but the plan is to have the variety department open for customers by early June, Wyllie said.