When the Wright family has a vision and decides to act on it, going small isn’t an option.
“If we’re going to do something, we’re going to do it big,” said Brandon Wright, third generation owner of Stan’s Merry Mart, 733 S. Wenatchee Ave.
A household name in Wenatchee since 1947, Stan’s Merry Mart recently completed its fourth major renovation.
“A major store remodel is expensive, but not doing it could prove more costly in the long run to the business,” Brandon said.
Contractors and staff worked tirelessly to make the transformation complete in less than four weeks, all while keeping the store open and taking care of its customers. Floors and walls were modified, aisles added and departments relocated to make a more inviting place for customers to shop and to give them what they want.
And there is more remodeling to come. As fall approaches, Brandon has his eyes on the holiday season.
“We’re still planning to add more registers to better handle holiday sales,” he said.
Stan’s Merry Mart has been Central Washington’s go-to store for decades. Unknown to most customers is the business is actually four stores in one. Its anchor is Ace Hardware, and its selection of products is so complete it’s likely to have anything a home or business owner is seeking.
“Stan’s has an unbelievable stock of almost anything you could want,” said Pat Kelly, owner of Kelly’s Ace Hardware store in Chelan. “We have been referred to as the Stan’s Merry Mart of Chelan, and I always take that as a compliment.”
Stan’s hardware department even has the capability of making spare chip keys for vehicles; it reads the code on the original key chip and programs the chip in the spare key with the same code. It also carries equipment and supplies for home beer brewing and wine making. Another area of the hardware store is filled with enough canning supplies to make grandma smile. It easily meets the needs of first-time canners or seasoned canning veterans — anyone eager to stock a pantry with summer’s bounty, safely sealed in airtight jars.
Stan’s also has an impressive clothing and footwear section, featuring the largest selection in the area — 7,000 square feet worth — of popular Carharrt clothing. It has a 10,000 square foot area of shoes and boots for every need in every season. The lawn and garden section carries seasonal supplies like grass seed and fertilizer, hoses and sprinklers, and even barbecues and accessories. Stan’s sporting goods section rounds out its line-up.
“We’ve increased our focus on sporting goods,” Brandon said.
That’s an understatement.
The store’s sporting goods section has more than tripled in size to 10,000 square feet. It features a wide selection of hunting gear, including camouflage clothing and accessories. It has camping gear, backpacking equipment and fishing tackle for every need on the water. But the pièce de résistance of the store’s remodel is its new gun counter. It’s a sight to behold for any hunter or gun enthusiast.
“We have a great selection of firearms, from popular handguns for personal protection to guns for hunting anything from doves and quail to elk and moose, and all the accessories and ammunition to go with them,” Brandon said. “And if we don’t have a specific firearm in stock, we can order it and have it in our customer’s hands in a timely manner.”
Although the store has come a long way over the years, its beginnings were much simpler.
The end of World War II saw a vast amount of military surplus equipment and supplies returning to the states. Bob Stanley saw an opportunity and rented a large truck to drive to the distribution center in Salt Lake City. He bought as much military surplus as he could fit into the truck and hauled it back to Wenatchee.
The retail space he rented was small — only 100 square feet — but it had good exposure on South Wenatchee Avenue. He set up shop, and it was an immediate hit in the community.
What did he do then?
He rented another truck and made a second trip. Then a third. Business was so good, Stanley bought his own truck and the retail space. The business continued to flourish and change over the years, and four major expansions took place. Today the store proudly boasts 60,000 square feet of retail space.
In 1997, Bob Stanley sold the store to his longtime business associate Ethel Wright, who had worked at the business since 1958.
“Bob Stanley believed my grandmother was the one person who could continue running the business successfully after his passing,” Brandon said.
Ethel took charge and 14 years later completely changed the layout of the store. She still works at the store, but daily operations are now handled by her son, Lynn and his son, Brandon.
Brandon graduated from Gonzaga University with a degree in finance and human resources. His wife, Mandy, attended the same school, and earned her degree in marketing and human resources. The young couple seems well prepared to move the business forward.
The growing business has 43 employees — it’s most ever.
“One of our major goals is to provide outstanding customer service, and that requires hiring enough quality people,” Brandon said. “We have enough staff to offer better customer service than the big box stores can offer, and that’s what we do.”
Josh Syria of Wenatchee appreciates the focus on customer service.
“I like getting one-on-one attention from someone who is local and I know,” Syria said. “For me, Stan’s is a one-stop shopping experience. It has a plethora of big-brand quality products and it keeps its prices competitive.”
Brandon sees competition as healthy for his business and a thriving local economy.
“We actually end up getting better at what we do because of competition,” he said. “It’s kind of like a boxing thing. You take one on the chin, and you can either lie down, or you can fight back. We’re in this for the long haul, and I don’t like to lie down.”