The new Country Mercantile store under construction in Richland might not look like the original store north of Pasco, but the owner says customers will feel at home once they get inside.
The new Italian-style building with terra cotta roof tiles, at 5015 Ava Way off Dallas Road, towers over the surrounding Badger Mountain South area.
Owner Jay Wood, 60, is aiming for a late April or early May opening. The new building’s floor still has quite a bit of sawdust on it, and no equipment has moved in.
“So far, it has been running fairly smoothly,” he said.
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A large deli counter is in place, along with a smaller counter where samples of gourmet treats will be handed out. An exposed stairway leads to an upstairs seating area.
A major difference between the new 22,000-square-foot store and the original Country Mercantile will be how visible everything is, Wood said. The bakery, and chocolate and ice cream areas will showcase the making of the food.
“That’s a little bit of a unique part of it, where you can actually see where your food comes from, ’cause it’s made right here,” he said.
One of the featured items will, of course, be fresh produce, much of it from Wood’s own farm near Basin City. Items like sweet corn and pumpkins are grown at the Pasco location, but the high cost of land in south Richland limited how large of a lot they can build there.
It also means they won’t have the popular Harvest Festival — which features a corn maze, hay rides and a petting zoo around Halloween — at the Richland site.
The new store will have some items like bread and milk to cater to the growing area, which is eventually supposed to have 5,000 homes, but right now is a ways from the closest grocery store.
“We’re more like a farmers market than a grocery store, everything is fresh,” he said. “Once it’s out of season, it’s done.”
The distinct areas of the store will be highlighted by pergolas over the gift and chocolate areas, but it will maintain a touch of country. Wood plans to place his old tractor on a ledge above the new Country Mercantile’s main entrance.
The new store will have 40 employees, Wood said. The Pasco location has 75.
Monique Kaas, a manager at the Pasco store, also will help oversee the Richland location. She said Benton County customers have been excited about the store opening closer to home.
“It’s so humbling, we have had such an overwhelming response,” Kaas said.
The store hopes to draw people from as far away from Yakima, Wood said. It will also lure travelers along nearby Interstate 182.
The Pasco store has grown to 12,000 square feet since opening in 1997, Wood said. Along with wife Janece Wood, he decided to open a new location in the Veneto Villaggio wine and retail area because they didn’t have any more room to add in the old store.
“We just got pushed to where we didn’t have any space to add on,” he said. “I said the way to grow the company was to add another store.”
He plans to work on the new store before considering building a third Country Mercantile.
“Talk to me in a few years,” he said.