New owners, new name

By Bill Rautenstrauch, The Observer January 26, 2012 12:02 am

Elgin couple buys Bill's Quick Mart, names it Island City Market and Deli

A long-time anchor business in Island City has changed hands, with a local couple taking over.

Last Nov. 30, Keith and Kathleen Williams of Elgin bought Bill’s Quik Mart and Deli, the convenience store situated in the center of town at the corner of West First Street and McAlister Road.

They painted the place, added new signage and and gave the business a new name, Island City Market and Deli. Since then, they’ve continued adding improvements and new features.

“Our goal is to have a better selection to meet people’s needs, and to do a lot more volume,” Kathleen said.

Kathleen is a La Grande native who graduated from La Grande High in 1991. Keith was born and raised in Elgin. Both have knowledge of the grocery business, having worked for vendors that supply local stores. 

For Kathleen, the new venture is a continuation of a family tradition. From 1972 to 1976, her father, Ken Leavitt, was the owner of Ken’s Grocery, which is now the Spruce Street market. Leavitt and his father before him were grocers, and it was always Kathleen’s intention to follow in their footsteps.

“Mainly, we bought this because I wanted to have a store of my own. It must run in the genes,” she said.

The Williamses had been scouting prospects for a long time when they heard last year that Bill and Linda Hallman, owners of Bill’s Quik Mart and Deli for 19 years, were looking to sell. Persistence paid off in the hunt for a location, Kathleen Williams said.

“We looked into others that fell through. Then I heard through work the Hallmans wanted to sell. I came and asked, and they said ‘yes’,” she said.

There’s been plenty to keep the couple busy since they started. They’ve expanded the deli portion of the business and revived the store’s catering service.

Bill’s was always known for its lunch trucks that visited local plants, and the new owners are working to improve that service. When they started out, only one truck was running. Now there are two.

In addition to all that, the store has become a point of sale for Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife hunting and fishing licenses.

Having an experienced hand around always helps, and the owners get that from Leavitt, who’s come out of retirement to help guide the business through its nascent stage.

Talking Monday, Leavitt harked back to the days when he ran his store on Spruce Street. He said his former business was the first of its kind in La Grande to sell deli style sandwiches.

He also recalled how he sold a popular bakery item called a cream-filled log. He said he’s having a great time making and selling those for his daughter and son-in-law.

The Williamses employ eight part-time workers. The store is open 5:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday-Friday, and 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays.

Kathleen Williams said she and her husband are eager to serve the community.

“We’ve been working with our vendors so we can lower our prices,” she said. “When we can get the deals, we’ll pass them on to our customers.”

The Williamses live in Elgin. They have four children, Drew, 21, Brittney, 21, Cassandra, 17, and Austin, 11.