The Brothers Lind: Building a legacy
The sibling owners of Gervais Food Market are looking to retire after 25 years and pass on the family business
Jim and Dick Lind have been best friends for almost as long as they have been brothers. That would be 69 years.
They have been partners in the retail grocery business since 1975 when they purchased the old Mayfair Market on Highway 99E in Woodburn. Their grocery careers are coming to an end in the next few weeks.
Jim is now 72 years old and wants to retire. Brother Dick, 69, is battling aggressive, recurring cancer that is very debilitating and restricts the amount of time he can devote to the business.
The brothers grew up with two sisters in North Bend, the sons of a loading supervisor on the Coos Bay-North Bend docks. They didnt have it easy, but they didnt want, either. Dad and mom were hardworking people and sons Jim and Dick had chores and responsibilities at home. They learned how to work.
At about the age of 10, Jim got a job painting a neighbors picket fence. Ala Tom Sawyer, Jim was able to enlist little brother Dick to help paint the fence. When finished, Jim went to the door of the owner to collect and while he was doing so, little brother Dick was busy painting swear words he had learned from Jim on the front sidewalk. There was some warming from dad later that evening. But entrepreneurship had been discovered.
Jim knew his dad wasnt going to buy him a car, so as a 15-year-old high school student he applied for and got a job working nights and weekends as a stock clerk and bag boy. His bosses at the local Safeway liked him and gave him increasing responsibilities, which Dick responded to well. He received promotions. After several months of saving his earnings, Jim was driving a better car than his dad was. Boys with cars were popular in high school and Jim soon had himself a girlfriend, Mary Fosmore, who would become his high school sweetheart. Life was good for the basketball- and baseball-playing son of the local loading supervisor.
Jim was a good enough baseball player to attract collegiate attention and the Coos Bay Lumberjacks semi-pro baseball team, made up of mostly collegiate and ex-professional baseball players, tempted Jim. But by graduation he was offered a management position in the grocery business and opted for that instead of a baseball career. He has no regrets.
When he was 19, Jim married Fosmore, his high school sweetheart. Brother Dick had taken note of the lifestyle and success his brother was enjoying and applied for and got a job with a local Pay and Save grocery to become a meat cutter trainee. He got the job and not long after he had his own car and a steady girlfriend. He was very good at the meat cutting business and soon was manager of the meat department for a local grocer. At age 23, Dick married his longtime girlfriend Barbara Steiger, who caught his eye when she was drum major for the North Bend High School drill team. Theyve raised daughters Debby, Corey and Kristy.
Both brothers say that Mary and Barbara were instrumental in the success of the grocery store empire the Linds built up over a 25-year period. At one time they owned stores in Gervais, Mount Angel and two stores in Woodburn. They kept the books, manned the cash registers during rush hours and were great homemakers and moms.
To keep things even, the good Lord gave Jim and Mary three boys and no girls. Jims sons Rick, Jaimie Jr. and Bob got along well with their girl cousins.
Rick died in a tragic auto accident in 1996 and Jims beloved Mary died of cancer in 2004. Dick and Barbara helped Jim get through the rough times of losing a son and treasured wife. Hes glad he can be there for Dick and Barbara at this critical time in their lives.
Only one Lind child is involved in the grocery business. Jims son Bob managed the Mount Angel Store before it was closed and is managing the Gervais Food Market. Both Jim and Dick hope that Bob will want to assume the ownership of the Gervais store and keep it in the Lind family.
Bob Lind is considering the opportunity, but isnt sure he wants the responsibility. If Bob doesnt take over, the store will be put up for sale and a new operator will take the reins.
One Gervais resident who hopes Bob becomes the owner is six-year councilman John Harvey.
We know the sense of community and caring of the Linds, he said. You dont get people to support community activities like the Linds do. Their Good Samaritan deeds warm the hearts of the community. We have our share of down-on-their-luck people in Gervais; many of them have had a hand up from the Linds.
Theres an old story told many times about the cash and carry grocer who said if bad checks were made of softer paper, a cash and carry grocer would never have to buy toilet paper. The Linds say theyve had their share of bad checks in their 32 years in business, but they dismiss those bad checks in favor of the great support they have had in their business locations.
They hope Bob Lind will keep their tradition alive, but they say they will support his decision, stay or leave. But the Lind brothers are going to retire. Jim wants to fish, Dick hopes to get healthy enough for another elk hunt.
John Harveys eyes well up when he recounts the story of the young girl who came in the store with two refund cans. She asked what she could buy with her two nickels. She was told the nickel candy was on the bottom of the candy shelf and to help herself. She did and left. But she paused and began to weep when she reached the sidewalk, so Jim went out and asked her what was wrong. She said she got fed at school, but her parents hadnt eaten in two days. Jim took her back inside the store, filled two big bags with groceries, added two gallons of milk and sent her on her way. He says her smile is indelibly etched in his heart.
Dick tells about the man that they knew was stealing baby formula from them daily. They finally called police to have him arrested. The would-be thief said he needed the formula and baby food for his children. The officer took him to his home to determine if he had children and not stealing to sell to others. Satisfied that he wasnt, the police returned him to the store and told the Linds what they had found.
Instead of going off to jail (hed been caught redhanded), the Linds sent him home with bags of groceries, delivered by the cop car, yet.
Ive lived in Woodburn for 72 years. The Linds mirror the cash and carry grocers that I depended on early in my adult life. Johnny Prinslow, Ray Equal and Cliff Brittain and the Gervais favorite Jake Cutsforth carried a lot of people on the books. There were probably others. The big box stores bring a new dimension to the grocery store. Both Linds buy their personal meat from Costco.
But the big box stores will never replace the friendly grocer who knew you by name and frequently gave your kids suckers or other goodies as you made it through check out. The last vestige of that kind of grocer may be going away when the Lind boys retire.
Im with Councilman Harvey. I hope young Bob agrees to take up the challenge.