Gold Digger and Prince’s, things might be looking up

Oroville has been nervous ever since two of it’s largest private employers went through an economic crisis, threatening to shut their doors. I’m talking of course about Gold Digger Apples Inc. and Hughes’ Department Store.

Gold Digger Inc. was rocked when U.S. Bank demanded repayment of an $18 million loan that had been on the books for several years. While the company had been making their regular payments, the bank called in the entire amount, sending the company into a tailspin and threatening hundreds of jobs in the Oroville area.

Editorial Gary MugGebbers Farms stepped in and bought the apple crop and most, but not all Gold Digger employees, found they still had work. Now comes word that the Brewster company, one of the biggest fruit companies in the state, is negotiating to buy Gold Digger and has no plans to high grade the equipment and close down operations – in fact, with additional fruit coming north, there may be even more jobs created locally to handle packing and shipping. Of course this isn’t a done deal and we are still waiting to hear back from Gebbers Farms, but saving all those jobs, as many as 300 plus when operations are under full swing, is one life ring we will gladly grab on to.

The other news, more solid, is that the Country Store is going to lease the space occupied by Hughes’ Department Store at Prince’s Center. What we can tell you is that the Country Store is advertising for jobs on their website at http://countrystore.net/employment/.

Along with 11 job listings, everything from warehouse clerk to store manager, they make this statement, “The Country Store is pleased to announce the upcoming opening of its thirteenth store in Oroville, WA. The company will be continuing the operation of Prince’s Department Store, an existing local business with a long and strong history. In addition to continuing a relationship with Ace Hardware, The Country Store will feature categories in farm supplies, pet, feed, seed, housewares, clothing and lawn and garden. Projected to open in January 2017, the company is now seeking candidates for the following positions to join its team.”

While rumors that The Country Store was the top candidate for the now nearly empty Hughes’ Department Store, there was no verification until people saw an ad for employment on Craigslist and followed the link to the store’s website. Of course now it’s the talk of Facebook and other social media.

The Prince family did a good job keeping many of Hughes’ employees working during the inventory reduction sale that took place over the summer, but the idea that one of Oroville’s premier retail spots was going to be empty soon was daunting. Many people have worked in the department store over the years, sometimes it seemed like whole families were working there. To have Prince’s Center only half full and not have a place to go when you need that plumbing, electrical or auto part after the other stores were closed, had many of us worried. We are glad to see the Country Store chose this community for their latest location. We know that it should be a win-win for them and for Oroville.

About Gary DeVon

Gary DeVon is the managing editor of the Okanogan Valley Gazette-Tribune and celebrated his 25th year at the newspaper in August 2012. He graduated from Gonzaga University with a degree in Communications - Print Journalism, with an emphasis in photojournalism. He is a proud alumnus of Oroville High School. His family first settled in Okanogan County in the late 1800s. His parents are Judy DeVon and the late Larry DeVon and he has two younger brothers - Dante and Michael. Many family members still call Oroville home. He has a grown daughter, Segornae Douglas and a young granddaughter, Erin.