It may be one of Hermiston’s most anticipated events of 2019: Ranch & Home opened Friday.

The retailer announced plans for a Hermiston store in early 2016, planning to open by the end of 2017. But continued delays plaguing the project made guessing its timeline a running joke around town. The company even got in on the joke for April Fool’s Day this year, putting out a video stating that the building would be turned into a retirement home since that’s what current Hermiston residents will need by the time it opens.

In reality, a surprise soft opening kicked off Friday. Marketing coordinator Morgan Hunsaker said the store would hold an official grand opening on May 31 when everything was fully in place, but Hermiston customers had been so patient they wanted to open as soon as possible.

Ranch & Home also has locations in Kennewick, Pasco and Milton-Freewater. The Hermiston store, located at 2500 S. Highway 395, boasts more than 100,000 square feet of retail space. Sections of merchandise include a large selection of clothing, tools, automotive items, gardening supplies, barbecue grills, fishing gear, firearms, animal feed and more.

“It’s pretty similar to the Kennewick store, just a little different layout,” Hunsaker said.

Most sections of the store were fully stocked on Friday — black and yellow DeWalt tools took up a long row of shelves in one area, while racks of Under Armour clothing, 30% off, stood in another. But there were also areas where staff were still busy unpacking boxes.

Jerry and Cheryl Ennis were browsing the weedkiller selection Friday morning as customers trickled in. They said they had recently returned to Hermiston after a stint living elsewhere and they were excited to see the store open.

“It’s great,” Jerry said. “We’re just checking out prices. Maybe this will help with the competition in town.”

He said the store had “quite an inventory” available for the soft opening.

George and Laura Koelman of Pendleton drove over to check out the selection of rubs for a barbecue they are hosting over the weekend.

“This is a big store,” Laura said.

George said he liked that Ranch & Home has “everything” in one store.

The city of Hermiston had originally offered the company an incentive package of reimbursements worth about $107,800 if it opened by the end of 2017, but the store was unable to meet the deadline even after it was extended to June 2018. The 18-acre property still has room on it for more development, and the company has hoped to recruit a grocery store or other developer for the site.

Ranch & Home is still hiring. Hunsaker said people can pick up applications inside the store or online. The store will be closed for Easter Sunday, but afterward will be open seven days a week from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Reporter

Reporter covering city government and economic development in Hermiston, Umatilla, Stanfield and Echo.

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