By Debby Schoeningh
From the May 4, 2002 Ruralite MagazineMain Street Baker City

In today’s economy, where businesses are struggling and closing more often than opening, it’s nice to know that there are some like Ryder Brothers Stationery in Baker City that have stood the test of time. Even though it has moved eight times, the business has remained a solid fixture in Baker City’s history. Owners Randy and Amy Dodson held an open house to celebrate its 100th anniversary.

H.B. (Horace Benjamin) and G.M. (Gilman Merle) Ryder opened Ryder Brothers as a print shop in 1901. In 1906, they relocated, adding office and wholesale school supplies. In the late 1920s, the brothers moved again, this time employing 21 women in the bindery. They were hired to print the telephone book for the state of Oregon. In that same location, from 1930 to 1938, the Ryders published a weekly newspaper, the Eastern Oregon News.

On November 19, 1940, a fire started in the basement of the building, destroying everything but the heavy printing equipment. The business was moved five more times to various places in Baker before moving to its current location on Main Street in 1964, after the J.C. Penney store left Baker and vacated the building.

G.M. Ryder died in 1938, and H.B. died in 1943. The business was sold to Bob and Katherine Bratt. When Bob died in 1966, the business was sold to the store manager, Dale Dodson, and his wife, Shirley.

“Dale really liked the store, and it was a dream of his to own it some day,” says Shirley. “We put every thing we had into it, and Baker has been very good to us.”

Although their son, Randy, liked the store, he did not initially share in his father’s dream, and opted to go on to college after he graduated from high school. He received a degree in business economics and planned on a career with a large company, but changed his plans when he played out the scenario in his mind.

“I was thinking I could go to work for someone else 60 hours a week and eventually work my way up to vice president, only to die of ulcers,” says Randy.

That prospect did not sound too appealing, and he had come to love his hometown. Instead, Randy became partners with his mom and dad, and about five years ago he and his wife, Amy, purchased the business when Dale and Shirley decided to retire.

Growing up in the business, Randy has fond memories from his childhood when he and younger sister, Gayleen, would do their nightly chores at the store. They always looked forward to Wednesday nights, when they were allowed a special treat of home made chicken and noodles at the Blue and White cafe that used to be located a couple of doors down.

He says he was always amazed when he went to a friend’s house to stay and found they had dinner at 5:30 or 6 p.m.

“I thought it was crazy, because mom and dad always worked at the store until 7 or 8, so we had dinner later,” says Randy. “I finally found out we were the ones eating late, and they were all eating at normal times. But we really enjoyed being at the store, and the staff was like an extended family.”

In the early years, Dale and Shirley worked long hours with few days off.

“We didn’t know what eight hour days were,” says Dale. “We thought all days were 16 hours.”

Along with running the store, they also had a wholesale business selling school supplies to local mar kets until Dale says the bigger companies started “nipping” at them by offering sundries with the school supplies, and they had to give it up.

With the advancement of technology, a lot of things have changed in the stationery business. Stationery that used to take up an entire aisle in the store is now reduced to a small section, and computer papers, office furniture and machinery is taking up the extra space.

“We used to sell gobs of forms for bookkeeping,” says Dale.“But now all of the bookkeeping is computerized.”

When computers first came out, there was talk that we would become a “paperless” society, says Randy, but it is just the opposite. “Computers actually generate a lot more paper, because people still want a hard copy that they can look at,” he says.

One of the biggest changes Randy and Amy made when taking over the business was that they began ordering every day, and get merchandise delivered overnight. Randy also goes on site to design office areas for customers, and orders furniture to fit their needs and the available space. And, to further sales, they have developed programs with larger companies like Ash Grove Cement and Oregon Trail Electric Co-op to supply and deliver their office supplies.

“We’re still here because we continually change to keep up with technology and trends,” says Randy. “If we didn’t, we would die. We’ve quit carrying some items, because in a small town it doesn’t work to compete, and we’ve added others. It’s a constant process.”

Even though he loves the business, what makes it all work for Randy is the people. “We have the time to sit down with customers and help them find a solution to problems,” says Randy. “A lot of my social life is the store, and my customers are my friends.”

Following in Dale and Shirley’s footsteps, Randy and Amy also try to stay involved in the local community.

“We try to sponsor YMCA teams, and have served on committees and boards,” says Randy. “We also donate money and time to good causes. My parents always instilled in me that the community supports you—you support the community.”

Although Dale and Shirley are thoroughly enjoying their retire ment, Dale still does a little repair work on typewriters at the store.

“We’re doing all the things we never had time to do before,” says Shirley. “But if he didn’t have something like that to do, I think he’d go crazy.”

Dale says he has the best of both worlds. “I enjoying going to the store and bothering Amy and Randy, but then I get to leave and they are the ones who have to worry about it,” says Dale.




Link to Ryder Brothers Facebook Page


Hours & Location

Mon - Fri:   8:30 to 5:30
Saturday: 10:00 to 3:00

1735 Main Street
Baker City, OR 97814

1 541-523-6526
1 800-497-6526
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