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From Humble Beginnings, Rosauers Serves Inland Pacific Northwest

image of exterior of Rosauers Supermarkets location

Last updated on June 18th, 2024 at 04:58 pm

Spokane, Washington-based Rosauers Supermarkets is celebrating its 90th anniversary in 2024, with plans to mark the milestone in July.

Following the annual Rosauers Open, a golf tournament to raise funds for local nonprofit Vanessa Behan, the company will spend a couple of weeks celebrating the anniversary, according to CEO Cliff Rigsbee.

“We’re going to have a great time. We’re going to dress up in the stores and might even put the old white shirts and bow ties on and maybe even have some throwback pricing,” he said. “We’re going to have some fun and really honor Mert Rosauer and what he did 90 years ago.”

Early days

Rosauers Supermarket was founded in 1934, when J. Merton “Mert” Rosauer, just out of school, bought a small grocery store on the corner of Sprague and Lee streets in Spokane. According to the company’s website, his parents loaned him $1,000 to finance the purchase.

This was during the Great Depression, and it took the young Rosauer four years to repay the loan out of store profits.

“It took courage and faith to launch a business at a time when America’s economy was turned upside down, and over the years Mr. Rosauer would parlay these traits into one of the most successful and innovative corporations in the Pacific Northwest,” according to the website. “In 1938, he sold his first neighborhood store, and with his earnings reinvested in another. A short time later he repeated that process again.”

In 1949, Rosauer opened a supermarket, the first for the company and for Spokane. The store was located at 3rd and Oak streets. With just 20 employees and drawing on the lessons he had learned over the past 15 years, the supermarket became an instant success. That first store is still in operation, albeit in a space seven times larger.

Over the years, Rosauers has expanded its operations to include conventional supermarkets, price impact super stores and natural and organic markets serving the Inland Pacific Northwest in Washington, Oregon, Idaho and Montana.

Ownership changes

Prior to retiring in 1984, Rosauer sold the company to another Spokane-based business and his supplier, URM Stores Inc. By selling to URM, he believed the traditions he established would endure at the stores he founded.

In September 1989, the URM Stores Board of Directors decided to sell the Rosauers chain. On July 27, 1990, the 1,250 Rosauers employees became owners of the company through an Employee Stock Ownership Plan. At that time, the company had 15 food and drug stores operating in four states, one free-standing pharmacy, an ice cream plant and the corporate office building.

Since 1990, Rosauers made several acquisitions to add to the total number of stores in operation. These included Market Time Drug in Lewiston, Idaho; Drug Fair in Moscow, Idaho; Super 1 Foods in Spokane, Washington; the Monroe Street Market and Spokane Wine Company in Spokane; Super 1 Foods in Walla Walla, Washington; Super 1 Foods in Colville, Washington; and the Excel Food Store in Colfax, Washington. New stores have been built in Yakima and 9 Mile Falls, Washington; Bozeman, Montana; and Meridian, Idaho.

In June of 2000, the employees unanimously voted to re-sell the company to URM Stores. Today, Rosauers Supermarkets Inc. consists of 18 Rosauers Stores, four Super 1 Foods Stores and one free-standing Huckleberry’s Natural Market. The company has some 2,100 employees.

In Washington, Rosauers serves the Ellensburg, Yakima, Colville, Spokane, Colfax, Ridgefield, Pullman and Walla Walla communities. Its Idaho locations can be found in Moscow and Lewiston. In Montana, Rosauer stores are in Libby, Kalispell, Missoula and Bozeman. And in Oregon, customers can find Rosauers in Hood River.

All Rosauers Supermarkets have the following departments: produce, bakery, deli, meat, floral, general merchandise and grocery. Most locations have a pharmacy department with pharmacists on site. In addition, Huckleberry’s Natural Market can be found in many Rosauers Supermarkets as a store-within-a-store.

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About the author

Treva Bennett

Senior Content Creator

After 32 years in the newspaper industry, she is enjoying her new career exploring the world of groceries at The Shelby Report.

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