Redmond’s Cent-Wise closing

Sixty-six years of doing business coming to an end

By Leslie Pugmire Hole / The Bulletin

Published Apr 11, 2014 at 12:01AM

Nearly 66 years to the day after opening its first Redmond business, the Patrick family is closing the doors on a retail dynasty that lasted two generations and launched the careers of countless young people in the community.

By the end of May, according to manager Tory Allman, the liquidation sale that started this week at Patrick’s Cent-Wise Sporting Goods & Hardware should be complete.

“This was not an easy decision; we’ve anguished over it a long time,” said Mike Patrick, co-owner of Cent-Wise with his three brothers. “Redmond has evolved, shopping habits have changed and there’s been a big turnover in population. We kept thinking it would get better but you really can’t compete with the big box stores and Internet.”

When their father, Vernon Patrick, arrived in town in 1948 as a freshly minted pharmacist, downtown Redmond was lined with businesses catering to locals: bakery, barbershop, shoe repair, hardware, movie theater, tavern and cafes.

And three pharmacies, one of which Patrick bought. Within the next two decades, Patrick’s retail empire would grow to include a sporting goods store, a furniture store, a hardware store and a smattering of buildings purchased to rent to other retailers and service providers.

“Dad came from a very poor family and he didn’t want his kids to experience the same life,” said Mike Patrick, 66. “He was driven. And some of it was civic-minded: If he thought Redmond needed something it didn’t have, he’d open that business.”

Giving the town what it needed was how Bob Barnett of Redmond got into the sporting goods business.

He began working at Cent-Wise Drugstore in high school, like many other teens in Redmond.

“When you worked for Pat (Vernon’s nickname), you learned to do a lot of stuff. Everyone wanted to work there. Pat hired the coolest girls, so all the guys especially wanted to work for him.”

Eventually Barnett, who began working for Cent-Wise in about 1955, was put in charge of ordering merchandise and reconciling the bills for the drugstore. When Barnett was 21, Patrick decided Redmond needed a sporting goods store. He purchased a building next door to the drugstore and opened Patrick’s Bargain Barn for Barnett to manage, a catch-all retail store that emphasized sporting goods simply because that’s what interested Barnett.

“I painted the store bright red and stocked it in part with things not selling in the drugstore. Pat let me set the prices and gave me the reins,” Barnett, now 73, recalled. “I made mistakes working for him that would have caused me to go broke on my own but Pat allowed those because he knew that’s how you learned.”

Early on, Patrick established a scholarship for Redmond High students that was awarded in part by how many hours they worked outside of school. He believed students with jobs were more motivated, said Mike Patrick.

In later years, Patrick bought a hardware store, then a furniture store. All four boys — Mike, Kelly, Ryan and Shawn — worked in the stores as kids and during college. Patrick’s wife, Madeline, kept the books and manned the counter when needed. It was a family affair, keeping everyone busy from daylight to 10 p.m. At one point Patrick opened, with managing partners, several Cent-Wise drugstores in towns throughout the Northwest.

“People may have thought we had more than we did, but it wasn’t like that,” Mike said. “We have to work for everything. Dad could be tough. I thought everyone’s vacation was spent at pharmacy conventions.”

While the Patricks built a swimming pool when the kids were young, it turned out to be more of a community amenity than a family luxury: Patrick would fly a green flag to signal days when the pool was open to all-comers.

Mike was the only Patrick to return full time to the stores after college. A pharmacist, he slowly took over the drugstore from his father. Kelly, also a pharmacist, broke out on his own; Ryan is a certified public accountant and Shawn a physician. But all the sons were involved in running the businesses from an oversight aspect, and even when the drugstore was closed in 1992 and Mike went to work at Safeway, he maintained his involvement.

Despite his many business interests, Vernon Patrick always made time for the community, volunteering with Redmond Kiwanis, fire department and many others. The Oregon State Pharmacy Association gave him its outstanding community service award (and later, to his son Mike) and Redmond named Vern Patrick Elementary for the businessman.

Patrick retired, for the most part, when the drugstore was sold and he and his wife traveled and relaxed while the boys managed the sporting goods and hardware stores, the only remaining businesses. Patrick and his wife died in 2004.

In 2009, after years of road construction projects surrounding the stores and lagging sales, the family consolidated the two into one store on Southwest Fifth Street.

That last remaining store will be gone by summer, although the family will retain ownership of the building and will be looking for tenants. The sale has been busy this week and loyal customers are streaming in the door, according to Allman, the manager.

“It’s been a zoo this week,” he said. The store has six full-time and three part-time employees, including Allman, who Mike Patrick credits with running the business and volunteering in the community in a manner that would have made his dad proud.

“Right now I’m committed 100 percent to seeing this through,” said Allman. “When the dust settles, I’ll start thinking about the future.”

Barnett, who left the Cent-Wise family to open his own business in late 1960s, has remained loyal to the family, whom he sees as unique in a corporate-dominated world.

“It’s the end of something that was great, but it’s the times, the evolution of things,” he said.

— Reporter: 541-548-2186, lpugmire@bendbulletin.com