The historic Willamette general store gets a new face in an old place


The strip of stores in Old Willamette is home to summer street dances, the Wednesday market and many favored restaurants. Take a walk a little farther down the road, and there is an old building that has been standing since the 1900’s, usually unnoticed, which is now in the spotlight.

The Historic Willamette General store and Market is the only crafts-man style retail store in West Linn and has been located in the town of Willamette for over 100 years. Most locals would only remember it as a quaint convenience store and a place to fulfill your hardware needs. However, in the past, it has spent time as a butcher shop owned by Albert Grassman, and in 1946 Ben Fritchie Sr. and Wayne Bailey owned the store when it was a cabinet, church pew and tavern bar workshop. Up until 2011, it was owned by John and Gloria Lightowler. The Lightowlers purchased the business in 1989 and turned it into a builders’ supply and feed store. Recently, a new man has taken the rein and has had no time to hold his horses.

In May 2011, Ryan Dato, the new owner of the Historic Willamette General Store and Market, bought the business. He closed it in June to remodel, reopening in July. Dato is a first time business owner, but has had experience as a salesman and sales manager in industrial sales for 15 years. When he reopened the store for business, he and his staff worried every day wondering whether people were going to come in.

“It’s like throwing a party and wondering if anyone will show up.” Dato said.

The store has entirely been remodeled inside. This has allowed room to add a coffee bar and outdoor seating where customers can enjoy a sandwich and their favorite beverage from their extensive sandwich bar and deli. The deli offers delicious foods from quick homemade sandwiches to freshly baked cookies and scones. And for those on the go, call-ahead orders are ideal for short lunch breaks.