TONASKET — Lee Frank Mercantile celebrates 100 years of business and continues to expand to further meet the needs of the community, with no signs of stunted growth.
The business first opened its doors in the town of Riverside, and was originally founded as Riverside Commercial Company, in June of 1920. Early in the spring of 1947 the business was incorporated by Lee Frank, as Lee Frank’s Inc. and moved to the town of Tonasket . Shortly thereafter, in 1955, George Frank, joined his father, Lee Frank, in the family business.
Stacey Kester said the store was a mercantile and met the community’s needs for hardware and groceries.
“The mercantile met the needs for all things needed,” said Kester.
The business expanded and moved the grocery into its own building, in 1981, which is the present day Grant’s Market building. In 1991, the grocery portion was sold to Grant Leavell.
After George Frank’s retirement from the family business, Dave Kester bought Lee Frank’s Hardware store from Frank in 1996.
Dave Kester went on to buy two more storefronts to further expand the business. Sporting goods and appliances both moved out of the original building.
When Kester bought the store, and moved to Tonasket, his youngest son, Aaron Kester came with him and worked in the store throughout high school. Kester’s son, Ryan Kester, and his wife Stacey, moved to Tonasket in 2004 and have worked at the store since that time.
Stacey Kester said the store currently employs 17 people, including the Kesters. Two women, Lorraine Grant and Kathy Moore, who were hired by Lee Frank, worked for both George Frank and Dave Kester and retired after many years of service to the community.
“It’s wonderful to be a part of this. It’s about building relationships, customer service, finding out what your customers need and doing your best to provide that,” said Stacey Kester.
On Easter Sunday of 2005, the original Lee Frank’s building was lost in a fire. One year, one month and one day after the fire, the doors were reopened.
Lee Frank Mercantile is doing a few different things to celebrate turning 100.
“On Washington’s free fishing weekend, we created 100 kids fishing tackle boxes, to give away. We did 100, for our 100th anniversary, to give away to kids. Traditionally the free fishing weekend falls on the same weekend as the Bonaparte Fishing Derby. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, the fishing derby was not able to continue this year. That’s two years in a row without a kids’ fish day. We’ve helped them with that over the years. We thought this was a great opportunity to get some fishing supplies out for the kids on the kids’ free fishing weekend and to partially celebrate our 100 years,” said Stacey Kester.
Kester said she knows George and Lee Frank would say the same thing as her, they are very grateful for all of their customers from over the years.
“There have been families that have shopped with us for generations,” she said.