Our Story

From Left: Robert Simerly, Helen Lancaster, Richard Simerly, Ed Bitterli, Bessie Bitterli, Darline Simerly, Lucille Thaete and Grace Mason. Early 1950's.

Robert Simerly began in the service station business in 1952. His business was located in Wendell, Idaho in the building now commonly known as the Pit Stop. The business seemed to be going nowhere and he decided to make a change. Since he had no capital investment whatsoever, he sold his wife's (Darlene Simerly) life insurance policy back to New York Life for $450.00. He took the money to Twin Falls Idaho to Scowfroft, people who were grocery wholesalers. They filled a red International pick-up full of groceries, hauled them to Wendell and put them on the shelves in the service station. A couple of years later, he bought some fishing hooks, a few guns, and some ammo. This was the beginning of the grocery and sporting goods business.

Groceries were stacked from floor to ceiling in the small cramped space.

Robert Simerly, at this time, was leasing Wescott Service (the service station) from an oil company for a penny a gallon of oil he sold. The oil company didn't want anything to do with the grocery business and the relations between the two deteriorated.

Just up the street a block, there was a building owned by Chancy and Evan Willard. Robert had a vision of what he could someday do with that building. One day, Robert and Darlene decided to officially enter the grocery and sporting goods business. They leased the building and moved their equipment and business up the street and called their new business, Simerly's.

To utilize space, they shelved the groceries from the floor up to six feet high. Above that, they went up another four feet to the ceiling with sporting goods.

Harold Simerly 1970's and today.

About this time, around 1968 or 1969, Robert and Darlene's eldest son, Harold, came home from the Navy and went to work for them. A few years later, his brother Richard, also came home from the military and did the same. On January 2, 1975, Simerly's became incorporated and Harold, Richard, Robert and Darlene became stockholders.

The addition to the store.

Business continued to increase and the Simerly's decided they needed extra retail selling space. The Willard's (their landlords) did not wish to invest any more money in the property, so the Simerly's obligated themselves for a real estate loan. This meant they would build in to the building and pay for it but the Willard's would still own it. (When Robert Simerly later decided to buy the building, he would have to buy back the edition that he paid to have built).

Robert and Darline Simerly - 1983.

For a few years the store did fairly well. It became crowded once again and then disaster struck. A person cut a hole in the back of the warehouse and bypassed security which was on the doors. In an effort to cover up the burglary, they set the place on fire. It went through the roof and burned the security line which set off the silent alarm. People rushed to the store expecting to find burglars but instead found the place in flames. The warehouse was next to the alley and the fire set the utility poles ablaze. It cut the telephone lines as well as the lines that were feeding the pump to feed the fire. They were fortunate they got the fire under control before they ran out of water. The following morning, Robert Simerly notified the Willard brothers that he had lost the warehouse. The Willard's informed him that they only had twelve hundred dollars of insurance and were not interested in building a new one. The Simerly's tried for one year to operate without a warehouse but it seemed to be an impossibility. They once again took their problems to the banker. He informed them that if they were going to borrow money, they needed to own the building so they could mortgage it. Chancey and Evan Willard established a deal with the Simerly's based on trust. They decided on a sum of money the property was worth. The Willard's then gave Robert Simerly clear title to the property. He mortgage it to the bank for the money necessary to do the addition. He also worked out a way to make payments to the Willard brothers on the original. The building wasn't paid off until 1987 and that is when the Simerly's became the official owner's

Over time, business increased and soon there was insufficient parking. At the time, the Simerly's were the owners of one-fourth of a city block. To the west, the other one-fourth block, had been a gasoline plant which had closed down and been sold to others who used it for farm chemicals. They, too, had quit using the property and it was up for sale.

Simerly's Garden Center- 1990.

The Simerly's had thirty days to purchase the property or another man was ready to buy it. They were up to their credit limit at the bank and were unable to get a loan. Fortunately, they were able to make arrangements for private financing. They bought the land for the highest price ever paid for land sold in this town, twenty-five thousand dollars lot. A great part of this land is now a parking lot. The rest houses Simerly's garden center which was built in 1988.

Richard and Robert Simerly in 1991 in the upstairs Sporting Goods Department.

For many years, the upstairs of Simerly's was an old unfurnished loft. A small section was closed off and became offices. Sometime later, because of the extra room, a sporting goods sale was held in the loft. It was so successful, the upstairs was refinished and the sporting goods moved upstairs.

Due to increased growth, Simerly's had continued to grow and expand. The opportunity presented itself to become a State Liquor Dispensary contract store. More room was needed to accommodate this addition and we took this opportunity to change the facing of the store.

During this phase of the remodel a little history of the building was uncovered. As the facing was removed, it was revealed underneath that the building had once been Gem State lumber.

This building was built by Theo E. Gates. Brick work by Chuck Friedberg. 09/18/1946.

Robert Simerly, who had always been a history buff was delighted with the new revelation and set about finding out about more of the building history. During the construction, one member of the construction crew uncovered a "time capsule" buried in the framing. In a glass jar that was still intact was the following note that shed light on the past of the building. What a treasure this was for Robert Simerly.

In 1993, Paula Simerly (Harold Simerly's daughter) officially became a stockholder and a member of the board of directors. This same year, the City of Wendell gave "right of way" to Simerly's to construct across the alley and adjoin Winslow's Department store and Wendell Drug to Simerly's market. Simerly's then rented one half of the Winslow building and relocated the Sporting Goods downstairs.

In 1998, Simerly's purchased the Winslow Department store building and thus more construction began. A large construction loan was acquired and Simerly's expanded their grocery store and then moved the sporting goods into the old Hamilton Drug building. The small mom and pop store now covered one city block. Much of the credit of the expansion of Simerly's goes to Harold Simerly.

50th Anniversary. Robert Simerly, founder, on left. Robert Simerly, his second wife, Dorothy, Paula and Harold Simerly, and Austin Blackwell.

After the construction project was finished, Robert Simerly decided to gift his stock to the remaining Simerly's. Robert Simerly passed away in August 2004.

In 2002, Simerly's celebrated 50 years in business. They topped of the event with a customer appreciation celebration. Darline Simerly had passes away in 1984, however, Robert Simerly was still able to attend the event. He was quite proud of his life's work. Robert Simerly passed away in August 2004.

Harold, Richard and Paula Simerly continued to run the corporation until the death of Richard Simerly in 2010. Now Harold Simerly, his wife Toni, and Paula Simerly see to the day-to-day operations. Simerly's enjoys many local customers and has very loyal staff.

With over 60 years in business, the small family store is still thriving and is thankful to the community of Wendell Idaho for its continued support.

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