WHITE BIRD A fresh look and expanded services now greet patrons at the White Bird General Store.
Marty and Kate Buck purchased the River Street store (next to the Silver Dollar Bar) from longtime owner, Josephine Parsons, and her son, Mel Wisenor, earlier this year, and were in business on their own as of April 1.
“We have a little bit of a lot of things,” Kate said, within the store’s 1,200-square-foot retail space, to make up daily meals or just snack food items, fresh items such as milk and cheese, general household supplies, and essential comfort food – chips, pop and beer – to outfit recreationists hitting the rafting and steelhead runs along the Salmon River.
“There were lots of things we wanted to improve,” Marty said, which began with some interior remodeling and also aesthetic improvements that include pine wood paneling along the walls. Available services were also expanded: an ATM machine is available, and the store was approved in fall to accept EBT cards.
“We just wanted to spruce the place up,” Marty said, “and make it a little more community friendly.”
A former Air Force helicopter mechanic, Marty worked 45 years – 22 as his own business – as a dental technician. Kate worked with developmentally disabled adults; she was one-to-one assistance for a man who needed intense support and guidance for daily activities. Prior to this, she worked with children with learning difficulties.
“An opportunity like this doesn’t come along every day,” Marty said, and it came at an opportune time for the Bucks, who moved to the area earlier this year from Lompoc, Calif.
“We were dissatisfied with the politics of California, and the stress of our jobs,” he said.
Looking toward the future, the couple was concerned whether they could afford to retire in California, and so they looked for an opportunity to provide a semi-retirement, “and still keep us busy,” he said.
That opportunity came quick, introduced by Marty’s nephew, who owns property in the county and flew them up for a visit to the area and to check out the store. Early spring the Bucks made an offer, “and it all fell together for us; a new adventure,” Marty said.
The business is a new one for the Bucks, but not one in dealing with and serving customer needs.
“It’s not rocket science, but it requires that you listen to your customers and try to meet their needs,” Marty said, with the pair explaining the ATM and EBT service came as a result of that. It is also a challenge, as they work to supply a small clientele with the essential range of food stuffs, including perishable items such as milk, and do all this while offering reasonable prices.
“We have to rely on our ingenuity,” Marty said, and also regular trips to Lewiston-Clarkston to maintain and update their stock to keep their prices competitive. Kate explained, for example, they could have milk delivered, but its sale cost would be expensive for patrons.
“Honestly,” he continued, “it’s finding that happy medium of what keeps the store running and what is a fair price for people to pay for their needs.” And, he adds, people would be surprised on their prices for some stock in comparison to those offered in Riggins or Grangeville.
Asked about their philosophy of customer service, Kate explained, “Our aim is to give genuine customer service,” which entails a neighborly view of knowing people by name and being on top of the products they need. “It’s not just acting nice. It’s being friends with our clients.”
The White Bird General Store is open Tuesday through Saturday, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., and Sunday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Contact them at 208-839-2262 or find them on Facebook.