Ram Auto & Hardware

Ram Auto & Hardware in Wallowa will be the location of a new Winding Waters Medical Clinic with the health care group buying the business from Randal and Mary Johnson.

WALLOWA — What for decades was a hardware store will soon become a site where Wallowa residents can nail down their health care needs.

Winding Waters Medical Clinic is buying Ram Hardware in Wallowa from owners Randal and Mary Johnson, who are going into retirement and are in the middle of a liquidation sale.

The purchase, Winding Waters CEO Nic Powers said, will give the clinic the opportunity to have a facility closer to many of its patients who currently have to travel to Enterprise.

“We’ve served hundreds of people a year from Wallowa, and see a need to bring integrated health care close to those folks,” Powers said. “When we survey people we frequently hear transportation as a barrier to people getting the care they need.”

Currently, patients are seen one day a week at the old Telephone Co., the same building as the new Wallowa Mountain Midwifery.

A portion of the funding will come through a second American Rescue Plan Act grant the clinic is receiving, this one for $549,709. There are differences, in the ways the dollars can be used.

“My understanding is in April, the funding was about supporting organizations through providing COVID care and maintaining regular operations,” he said. “This grant is very specific to health center construction and capital improvements.”

So specific was the grant, in fact, that there were tight limits on what an entity could use money for.

“When you wrote the grant, you could only write it for a very small set of things, construction of a new facility, expansion/renovation of a facility, or equipment,” Powers said.

Winding Waters won’t be trying to renovate the building, but instead will be tearing it down and building a facility that will serve medical, dental and mental health care needs, Powers said.

It will be operational five days a week, and will include five exam rooms, four dental operatories and two counseling rooms.

He said COVID-19 has made estimating costs difficult, but anticipates the new facility will come in at around $2.1 million. More grants will be sought to cover the remaining costs.

“The grant has helped us to be confident we can get going on the next steps. We are trying to determine that,” Powers said. “We are seeking out and hoping to engage an architect and hoping to get going with the design.”

Powers is hopeful the clinic will be operational by the spring of 2023.

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