On the 25th anniversary of the day that they bought an Enterprise grocery store Dean and Lou Norden will be starting a new chapter in their lives.
The proprietors of Enterprise Food City announced this week that they have sold their business to Wallowa partners Mike Goss and Ron Goebel.
"We've enjoyed it but we've put in some long hours these last years," said Dean Norden, who will turn over the keys to the business to the new owners on Nov. 1.
The transaction occurs precisely 25 years after the Nordens bought the store from Fred and Irma Kaup.
"You'd think we planned it that way, wouldn't you," said Lou Norden, who has worked side by side with her husband for a quarter of a century since they moved to Enterprise from Spokane, Wash., in 1977. During that time they have been married not only to each other but to the business they built together.
"You've got to be a hands on operator," Dean explained of the long hours that he and Lou put into the business over the years. "I think it is the same with any small business."
Over the years the Nordens have seen many changes in the grocery business. Computers are now involved in more aspects of the business than they were 25 years ago. Meat now comes prepackaged rather than in carcasses. Produce is available year around instead of only seasonally. Convenience foods that are sold ready to serve are much more common.
The most memorable aspect of 25 years on River Street, according to Dean Norden, are the customers he and his wife got to know.
"When you see the same customers returning day after day you know that you've done a good job," he said. "Continually interacting with the same customers ... it's a clean comfortable environment to work in, and you don't have to wait long to see the results of your efforts."
In retirement the Nordens hope to do some traveling, including some trips around the Pacific Northwest to visit their children, Don, who lives in Spokane, and Shelly, who lives McCall, Idaho. They also hope to take some time to explore Wallowa County.
"We hear it's a beautiful place," Dean jokes about never getting to leave the store. In 25 years that the couple has lived in Wallowa County they still have yet to drive the road below Imnaha, visit the Forest Service lookout at Hat Point, and see other local points of interest.
The new owners of Enterprise Food City are no strangers to Wallowa County or to the grocery business.
Mike Goss owned and operated Wallowa Food City for about six years in the early 1990s. He subsequently managed the Shop 'n Kart store in La Grande for about two years before moving to Alaska to manage stores in Homer, Nome and Kotzebue.
"I learned some things about retailing in rural communities in Alaska that I will bring to Enterprise," said Goss, who will oversee the day-to-day operation of the new store.
Ron Goebel, who owned and operated the Texaco station and convenience store in Wallowa for several years in the 1990s, also brings considerable retail experience to the business.
The new owners plan to take the next four to six weeks to remodel the store, install new equipment, and bring in some new products. They are planning to increase the square footage of the store by knocking out a wall and better utilizing existing space. They are also planning to expand available parking on the perimeter of the building and put in a second entrance on the west side, according to Goss.
The partners plan to continue to carry the Western Family food line but intend to offer additional products as well.
"Dean and Lou have built a good, solid foundation and their level of commitment to the community has been super," said Goss, adding, "We're going to expand on what they've been doing. We are going to do everything we can to keep more dollars in our community ... basic fundamental things with a few new twists."