For most of its 85-year history, Dissmore’s IGA was owned and operated by members of the Dissmore family: founder Guy Dissmore, his son Chester, and grandson Mark. The store grew and prospered under three generations of Dissmore family stewardship.
In May, 1998, it was announced that Dissmore’s IGA would be sold to Spokane-based Tidyman’s, an employee-owned group of some 20 stores at its peak. So strong was Dissmore’s name and brand that Tidyman’s wisely chose not to change it after assuming ownership.
Tidyman’s fortunes took a nosedive when the company lost a sex discrimination lawsuit filed by two female employees over disparate wages and benefits. Because the owners did not have employment liability insurance, they were obligated to pay out of pocket the approximately $6.3 million in damages, forcing them to sell off stores. Eventually, Tidyman’s exited the business entirely, selling Dissmore’s IGA to the McGregor family of St. Maries, Idaho, operators of the Archie’s IGA store there, in June, 2006.
I began working with Archie McGregor soon after he and his family took over the operation of their new store, and Archie gave me unusually wide latitude in creating radio commercials for a new campaign to rebrand and reinvigorate the store, which had declined noticeably in the intervening years. Archie and his wife Shelley worked hard to breathe new life into the operation, making improvements in its appearance, selection of goods, and customer service. These became the basis of the very first spot created for the new owners.
Most of our early radio spots focused on niche areas of interest, always ending with an invitation to Rediscover Pullman’s original hometown supermarket, Dissmore’s IGA—hometown proud and better than ever.
Among the early spots for the new campaign was one called “The Steak Place,” aimed at re-establishing Dissmore’s service meat counter as the place to go for custom cuts. The spot won a couple of awards, both for me and for Dissmore’s, but more importantly, it positioned the meat department at Dissmore’s IGA as Pullman’s destination for quality meats.
An important area of focus was Dissmore’s produce department and their exclusive local relationship with Charlie’s Produce in Spokane. We took a different approach with this spot, noting that high-end restaurants in Spokane, which demand the very best produce for their menus, all rely on Charlie’s Produce to deliver it. In Pullman, only Dissmore’s offered this same quality produce to its customers.
Craig “The Fish Man” Peterson was a treasure to local seafood lovers, who could always count on his expert recommendations for fish and shellfish. If the Dungeness crabs weren’t up to snuff, Craig would say so. But when they were, he’d say with a smile, “Better get a couple.” Craig had worked in the meat and seafood department at Dissmore’s for some years before moving to Safeway when it opened a new store in the Wheatland Shopping Center, and then returned to Dissmore’s until his retirement from the business. I always enjoyed doing business with Craig and it was a treat to work with him on rebranding Dissmore’s seafood department. We created a spot touting the freshness of Dissmore’s seafood, using farm-raised Atlantic salmon as the lead item. It became the store’s top-selling seafood item.
Another area of focus was Dissmore’s bakery, famous for its French bread, baked fresh daily, as well as its fifty-year-old recipe for maple bars and donuts.
One of the spots I created for the bakery was called “Maple Bar.” It invited customers to slow down and savor the simple pleasure of biting into a freshly-baked maple bar, paired with coffee from Dizzy’s Espresso. People mentioned it a lot over the years, commenting on how it enticed them to stop in for a treat from Dissmore’s bakery. The spot won top honors for Dissmore’s in SuperValu’s regional Marketing Master competition that year. Another Dissmore’s spot, a summertime pitch for their in-store Deli, was a finalist in that same competition.
Dissmore’s store manager during those first years under the McGregor’s ownership, Trevert “Trev” McCuaig, was a boundless source of energy and enthusiasm when it came to implementing the McGregor’s “Hometown Proud” philosophy. His infectious cheerfulness endeared him to customers and colleagues alike. Trev was eventually hired away by Safeway to manage their store in Florence, Oregon—gone but not forgotten.
A generous supporter of Pullman’s civic and community nonprofit organizations, Dissmore’s could always be counted on for a donation of one sort or another to help them out. Their annual Shopping Spree fundraiser supported the Pullman Chamber of Commerce. They helped raise money for the local humane society, collected coats for kids for Pullman Child Welfare, hosted the Kiwanis “Stuff the Bus” effort to provide school supplies for young students, bought livestock from local FFA and 4-H kids, and so very much more.
In 2011, Washington Secretary of State, Sam Reed, presented Dissmore’s IGA with the National Association of Secretaries of State Medallion Award for its long history of service to our community.
In 2017, Dissmore’s celebrated its 80th birthday. Unfortunately, that milestone was dampened by construction work that closed North Grand Avenue to replace the defective water main below, which had ruptured and flooded the area twice in as many years. The road construction and closure killed Dissmore’s business that summer, causing a staggering financial burden to its owners. The money they’d been saving, earmarked for improvements to the building and facility, was diverted to keep the store afloat.
That same year, Archie took advantage of an opportunity Pullman Radio provided to invest in a musical jingle created in partnership with Creative Radio of St. Cloud, Minnesota. We remixed some of the most popular Dissmore’s commercials to incorporate the jingle, as well as creating brand new spots, such as this one, created to remind customers of the convenience of shipping packages from their in-store post office…
…and this one for the meat department, focusing on the freshness and versatility of Dissmore’s ground beef…
…and this one to introduce online ordering from Dissmores.com in the fall of 2018. Little did we realize how important online shopping would become within 18 months.
When COVID-19 blew into town in the spring of 2020 and the governor of Washington shut down so-called “non-essential” businesses and told citizens to hunker in their homes, Archie decided to launch home delivery, even waiving the delivery fee for the first month or so.
Dissmore’s IGA became the first supermarket in Pullman to offer this convenience to local residents.
Adman David Ogilvy famously said: “Truth is better than creativity.” One February evening in 2020, with grilled hamburgers on the menu for dinner (yes, I grill year-round), I ran into Dissmore’s to buy the ground beef and buns, the latter fresh from their bakery rather than the bread aisle. With only these two items to check out, I skipped the lines at the cash registers and went up to the service counter, where people went to buy cigarettes and lottery tickets, and asked Connie the counter supervisor if she would ring up my purchase. “Sure!” And as she scanned the second item, she exclaimed, “Wow, nice buns!”
I smiled and said, “Thanks, Connie. You’ve just given me a great idea for a new spot.” She laughed. “Nice buns?” Yep.
This was the first time I’d written a spot for Archie and Shelley to voice, and it worked out so well that we decided to do more of these conversations. Shelley was helping out in the floral department that spring, so our next spot featured bedding plants…
…followed by this spot for yummy Yumis.
Roy H. Williams, the Wizard of Ads®, a valued mentor of mine for more than twenty years, reviewed a few of my Dissmore’s spots in one of the Monthly Ad Class video meetings hosted by the American Small Business Institute. He said that one of the spots I sent him should have been a dozen spots or more for all the ground we tried to cover in it, and out of his creative brain emerged this idea for a new campaign: “At Dissmore’s, we do lots of things well. But the thing we do best is…”. And that thing-we-do-best would change from one ad to the next. Archie and Shelley embraced the idea and the result was a brand new campaign that would unfold incrementally over the next year. Here are five examples out of many we produced.
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On June 3, 2022, Dissmore’s announced the sale of the store to Rosauers and the end of its 85-year history in Pullman.
And during its final week of business, the McGregors said goodbye and thanks.
Thank you, Dissmore’s IGA, for 85 years of service to our community. And thank you, Archie and Shelley, for the pleasure and privilege it’s been to work with you over the past 15 years.
The Pullman Chamber of Commerce hosted an informal “Thank You to Archie and Shelley McGregor” event at Oak on Main, providing small bites and refreshments for attendees. It was very well attended and gave community members a chance to express appreciation to Archie and Shelley for their contributions to the vitality of our community over the past 15 years in person, and in a guest book provided at the entrance. There was also a Certificate of Appreciation from Congresswoman Cathy McMorris-Rodgers on display, a very special token for the McGregors to keep. My daughter Heather offered to take a picture of them with Paula and me to commemorate the occasion.