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Putt's Market in Dayton, Oregon Closing After 43 YearsBonnie King Salem-News.com
"Dayton won't be Dayton without Putt's!" ~ Joy (McReynolds) Millam, DHS alumni '82.
(SALEM, Ore.) - Dayton, Oregon does not take up much room on a map, however, a geographical fact such as that has little to do with the size of the heart of a town like Dayton.
With one blinking stop light and about 2,000 residents, the town is nearly the same as it has been for over one hundred years. By many accounts, it is exactly as it should be.
Arguably the most well known business in Dayton, Oregon is Putt’s Market, an old fashioned grocery and dry goods store. It stands one door down from the bank, on the main drag of Ferry Street, just across from the city park. Changes to the town are few and far between, save for some new home additions.
There is a big shift about to take place though, and it is likely to give the foundation of this rural town at least a little shake: Putt’s Market is closing, permanently. The last day the store will be open is Saturday, June 30, 2012.
The Putman family is hosting a community “Closing Party” that evening beginning at 5:00 pm, and it is sure to be a gathering for the record books.
ALL-AMERICAN TOWN WITH HEART
In Dayton, most people know each other. The kids all go to the grade school together, and then move up to the middle and high school. They excel in sports, and sportsmanship. In a time of technological ascensions and limitless advancements in industries across the board, the benefits of going to one school for “all twelve years” remains a priority for residents of Dayton. Quality of Life is not a cliché here, it is a way of life, something to reach for.
The majority of the people who live in the community have been there for generations. They’ve watched each other’s children grow up, and their children’s children.
Howard “Putt” Putman was one of those children. He was born on June 2, 1931 in Gaston, Oregon and grew up in Dayton. Howard passed away April 1, 2012. Services were held Friday, April 6, at the Pioneer Evangelical Church in Dayton, with Rev. Steve Hopper officiating and Dayton’s VFW (Putt was a charter member) in full regalia to send him off with a last salute.
Jeannie is also a native Daytonian. She and Putt met in 1948 at a school event when he was a senior, she was a freshman. After Putt graduated he went into the Army and served in Austria from 1951 to 1953, training the troops during the Korean War to mountain climb, cold weather survival and emergency First Aid.
“They were in love, but Jeannie’s dad didn’t like him for some reason, so he sent letters to her through his sister,” explained a family member. “When he got home from the Army though, her dad didn’t have much left to say, and they got married.”
Howard went to work for the local telephone company and was with them for 16 years. Even after they had taken over the store, he was “the telephone man” to many Dayton area residents.
Their two children, Bret and Christie, were “raised at the store”, which they both attribute to their healthy work ethics. Christie and I met in first grade, and were pals ever since. Many regulars recall little Christie sleeping behind the sewing counter at the end of a long day. The community became an extended family, and is still performing that role.
It all wasn’t a bed of roses of course. No business or family exists without its share of struggles and challenges. Still, they were overshadowed by a very complete life.
“No one would say my dad was easy, he wasn’t. He demanded discipline. Now of course, I am thankful. He was strict, but I wouldn’t change a thing. My mom was always in charge, really. She had a great way with my dad. My parents did an incredible job managing all they had to do. They had expectations, but I knew what they were. They were fair,” said Christie. “We were blessed to have parents that worked so hard, for everyone. I am really proud of them.”
Christie is a talented business woman and lives in Tigard with her husband and kids. Her big brother remained engaged in the family business, taking over daily operation of Putt’s Market several years ago.
“I hoped to give my dad a break from the store, but things just didn’t work out that way,” Bret said this week.
Through the toils and tribulations, good times and bad, ups and downs with the economy, the Putman’s have endeavored to fill their shelves at prices competitive to the “big stores”. The last few years, that has become increasingly less possible.
“In January, we decided it was time to make some decisions. Christie and I talked with our folks about the realities. The store has been struggling. We have very loyal customers, and we know it is going to be hard for people, but it has been a long time coming. Dad’s health wasn’t great, and we thought it would be nice to know our parents away from the store.”
It was a concept too far-fetched to happen very quickly, and sadly, Putt passed away in April.
With the store closing, it is time for a new chapter in their lives. Bret has been hired as Dayton’s very first full-time paid Fire Chief, a position he has held in a volunteer capacity for some time. “It’s going to be a radical change,” Bret said. “I do know that it will be a good change. For me, it will be really nice to work forty hours a week, instead of –well, a lot, seven days a week. I am going to spend more time with my family, and quality time with my mom. I am excited about my new position and that Dayton has made this decision for the Fire Department.
“I think people do understand about the store, but they’ll miss it. So will we. Our whole lives have been here, it will be tough.”
PUTT’S MARKET, THEN AND NOW
The store has only had a few owners since its beginning. The grocery business is a long-term commitment, and these owners took that seriously.
It is situated within a historic block of businesses built in 1911, a two-story brick building that serves as a visual reminder of Dayton’s longtime significance in the development of Oregon. Dayton was an important stop along the Yamhill River for farmers to get their goods to market and its growing economy made it a one-time consideration for State Capitol before Salem was selected.
With increased industry and the changes in transportation, though, Dayton was no longer on the main route to Portland. The steamships no longer ferried up and down the rivers. Trucks on highways took their place, and like many small towns, Dayton’s growth was hampered. Still, it never lost its spirit, and all these years later, Dayton is alive and well- and just slightly off the beaten path.
Putt once recalled that the store had been called Shippy and Filer's when he was a kid. In 1969, it had been The Red & White Market for some time. That’s when Putt and Jeannie bought the store, and named it Putt's Market.
Since that day, Putt’s Market has been a landmark, a moniker for the town, and a standard that families could really count on. The wooden floors made of fir are nearly all original. “Some of the boards by the entrance had to be replaced because they were so worn, but not many. It is still in really great shape,” Bret said.
The store is adorned with antiques and memorabilia from days gone by. Most of it has a story that someone can tell you. Many impressive paintings grace the walls by artist Jeannie Putman, including one rendition of the storefront, in a rainstorm. Also a favorite are the souvenirs from successful duck hunts, mounted for all to appreciate.
Owning a small business is a never ending, often thankless, job. That is especially true when your business is a small town’s grocery store. The secret to success in such a situation is simple, one must enjoy their work. The Putman’s enjoyed theirs, and this is a torch that could pass again. The building may be put up for sale, or it may be leased. Time will tell.
WELL LOVED LEADERS
From the start, Putt’s Market offered a variety of services that were very progressive, smart, and generous. Jeannie was trained to take blood pressure readings, and she did it for the cost of a smile. They delivered groceries to the elderly and shut-ins. They sold fishing licenses and had the official word on when burning was permitted. They let their customers run a tab. Yes, a tab. This kind of customer service is rare, to say the least, and from this point forward- a thing of the past.
Every morning at 8 am, community coffee lovers would gather together at Putt’s for the “Coffee Klatch”. Putt and Jeannie had the pot on and a warm welcome for their fellow Daytonians. “Putt’s is more than a store, it’s a community center,” said a long-time customer.
During the holiday season, there was a peanut tradition. They put out barrels of peanuts in the shells for customers to munch on while they shopped. At the end of the day, there were shells-a-plenty throughout the store. Peanuts made people happy- what an ingenious marketing plan. Another fun tradition was the birthday paddle. When it was a child’s birthday, Putt or Bret would slam the paddle on the counter, for a little shock effect. Then they’d all laugh and the birthday kid would get to sign the paddle and pick out a candy bar. Not a bad deal, and no paddling involved. Whew!
Putt served as a volunteer firefighter for 57 years, and held positions of both Assistant Fire Chief, and Chief. He and Jeannie were members of many civic organizations including the Jaycees, Elks and Veterans of Foreign Wars. Their family was described as one that “exemplifies the spirit of good neighbor-ship”.
In 1975, Dawne Hampton Haines, of Salem, wrote to the local paper and told a little known story, “On a fishing trip at the coast, Putt saved the lives of three people. Small craft warnings were out but some people still went out in a small aluminum dory. Their dory capsized and the people disappeared from sights. Putt saw this and went out in his larger boat, rescued the people and the boat, and brought them safely to shore.”
Putt loved the outdoors and taught his kids to shoot, hunt and fish. Christie was with her dad when they launched their first Dory from the beach at Pacific City. Their family may not have had much time off, but what they did have, they made the most of.
I asked Jeannie what she’ll do with all her extra time, and she said, “Well, I am looking forward to having enough time to think about it,” and laughed. Something makes me think she will continue finding incredible ways to share her creative and loving self with the world, outside Putt's Market. Onward!
Putt’s Market is survived by the innumerable people who have passed through its doors.
Watch the SLIDESHOW, Below:
Putt's Market is Closing - Produced by Bonnie King
Special Thanks: CJ Lovell, Photog Asst.
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Bonnie King has been with Salem-News.com since August '04, when she became Publisher. Bonnie has served in a number of positions in the broadcast industry; TV Production Manager at KVWB (Las Vegas WB) and Producer/Director for the TV series "Hot Wheels in Las Vegas", posts as TV Promotion Director for KYMA (NBC), and KFBT (Ind.), Asst. Marketing Director (SUPERSHOPPER MAGAZINE), Director/Co-Host (Coast Entertainment Show), Radio Promotion Director (KBCH/KCRF), and Newspapers In Education/Circulation Sales Manager (STATESMAN JOURNAL NEWSPAPER). Bonnie has a depth of understanding that reaches further than just behind the scenes, and that thoroughness is demonstrated in the perseverance to correctly present each story with the wit and wisdom necessary to compel and captivate viewers.
View articles written by Bonnie King
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