In the early 1950s, “Bus” Weller opened a grocery store on the outskirts of downtown North Bend. Over the years, the Weller family tended to the shop and, in turn, to the community.
They knew that the relationships that they forged at work not only made the business grow but also made the community stronger. Bus, later his son Bill, was widely regarded as the epitome of the neighborhood grocer.
The business continued to do well, and eventually, the original store right on the edge of North Bend Way was replaced by a new building where QFC stands today. Fast forward to July 17, 1990, when Bill and his dedicated crew officially became part of the QFC family. Some of those folks work in the store to this day!
While the Wellers were busy tending to the needs of North Bend, the original Redmond QFC was growing and remodeling and, on October 11, 1986, hired a new deli clerk who was truly looking for something better but really needed a job. That clerk was me and that day started the best 36-year “temp job” a guy could ever hope for.
That job morphed into Assistant Deli Manager and then Deli Manager. Those “temp jobs” eventually gave way to new positions, including Corporate Deli Trainer, District Deli Merchandiser and later, Corporate Deli Operations Director. Throw in a temporary 7-year stint as the Corporate Commissary Kitchen Director, and the first half of the job was complete.
Continuing to grow my one company resume, I moved into the store management side of the business with stops in several stores, finally ending in North Bend, working with North Bend’s unofficial mayor, Bill Weller.
Bill knew everyone, and everyone knew Bill. That connection with the community was essential. It’s part of the business that the corporate world of retail grocery has forgotten. It’s the role that I have endeavored to uphold since Bill’s retirement. It’s the role of the neighborhood grocer.
We have been through a lot together since then. Snowmageddon I & II, where supply trucks couldn’t make it into town reliably, we kept the doors open as best we could to serve the community.
When the Sallal water district was shut down for several weeks, there was only one store in town that didn’t run out of water because we saw the immediate need and had three semis full of water on our doorstep within hours of the crisis being announced.
The day the flanks of Mt Si caught fire, we were there behind the scenes donating water and bagging lunches for the firefighters until their work was done.
Covid? Yeah, that’s been a thing that we still struggle with!
Now here we are today. My last week with QFC and, more importantly, my last as the public face of the store in this community I love. I want to say “thank you.”
Thank you for your trust and support. Thank you to those of you who have become fast friends. Thank you for trusting us with your kids, who have come to work with us over the years. Thank you for sticking with us through all the good times and the not-so-good times.
Mostly, thank you for allowing me to be your neighborhood grocer.
-Jeff Lewis, North Bend QFC