Sunday June 30th marked the end of one of, if not the, longest family owned business in the Tri-Cities.  Current owner Chris Ingersoll posted a message on the Farmer's Exchange Facebook page that the venerable downtown Kennewick store would be closing it's doors for good.

Why After 100 Years Is Farmer's Exchange Closing?

That is a complex answer, but there are a number of factors that may have played in to the decision to shutter the business.

The Major Chains vs the Little Guys

This has been affecting local businesses for the last couple decades.  As major chains or 'Big Box' stores continue to expand into suburban and rural areas, the impact is hardest felt on smaller local competitors.

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The larger chains get lower prices on product due to their ability to bulk purchase.  The smaller companies have a larger price point and that translates to one of two things:

  1. The local businesses has higher prices due to the higher cost
  2. The local business keeps prices in line with the large chain, but makes less profit

Either way, the smaller local company faces more challenges than the chain with significantly more resources.

Farmer's Exchange Facebook
Farmer's Exchange Facebook

The Cost of Doing Business

Farmer's Exchange opened at the corner of Benton and Canal in downtown Kennewick in 1924 Emerald Ambrose Silliman would become a partner in the business six years later.  Silliman's son Clint would by the business from his father in 1948.  Ken Silliman would join his brother not long after.  49 years later, in 1997, Ken would sell Farmer's Exchange to his son Keith.

Keith was was who I bought a couple of Toro lawn mowers as well as a Toro snow blower from when I needed lawn equipment. The atmosphere in the complex (feed store, lawn equipment store, nursery, and service center) was always welcoming and they understood how important it was to super-serve Tri-Citians.

Keith would run Farmer's Exchange until he sold to his nephew, Chris Ingersoll, in October of 2021 for $1.25 million.  At that time, we were still a year away from being out from under the COVID state of emergency in Washington State.  Competing against Home Depot and Lowe's is challenging enough outside of the COVID environment, inside of it didn't help.  Especially when you're carrying a large loan.

Google Street View/Canva
Google Street View/Canva

Farmer's Exchange Adds A Second Location

In December 2023 Ingersoll was granted a business license to open a farmer's Exchange at 502 Wellsian Way in Richland.  The idea of expansion is to generate addition revenue by catering to another part of the community.  Another location also means the additional expenditures that go along with it. The store opened in 2024 to much fanfare but didn't seem to catch on the way it was hoped.

The End of Multiple Eras

Google Street View
Google Street View

Four generations owned and operated Farmer's Exchange before the June 30th announcement.  That's a lot of friends and extended family members members made over the last century.  Those long time relationships have come to an end.  Thoughts go out to the employees, some have been there much longer than others, whose lives have changed instantly and are now looking for new jobs.  It's an unfortunate end to one of the most recognized and relied upon businesses in the Tri-Cities.

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