Thursday, August 11, 2011

Ike's goal: "Quality at reasonable prices".

Isaac Benveniste founded the Renton Economy Department Store back in 1950. Ike’s story is nothing short of amazing and not unlike many of my grandparent’s generation who immigrated to the Pacific Northwest “from the old country” to create a better life.

Ike was born in Greece on the Island of Rhodes. In 1925 at only 16 years old he hitched a freighter to Africa. With next to nothing in his pockets he made his way to (what was then) the Belgium Congo. Over the next few years this enterprising young man would develop a successful trading business, learn several African languages, and gain the respect and admiration of locals and settlers alike. It wasn’t long after his hard work paid off and he bought a building and opened his first store in what is now Lubumbashi, Zaire.

A carved wooden cowboy boot and a wicker fishing basket in the front window at Renton Western Wear.

Benveniste became a successful entrepreneur. Yet, in 1948 political unrest turned to violence. The gap between the privileged class and those that had never had any privileges grew. With revolution emanate Ike and family took flight to America, leaving everything behind.

Back to square one the Benveniste’s settled in Seattle. Ike had to have been a human dynamo. In just two years working odd jobs, he learned enough English to get by and saved enough money to start up his first store in Renton selling surplus, general mechandise and western wear.

June 23, 2011... at the Renton River Days Parade.

Lucie, Ike’s daughter, bought the store in 1976. After Ike passed away in 1980 the store was renamed Renton Western Wear. Lucie’s son Jerry became a 3rd generation partner in 1986. They were early adopters of the internet and started up their online storefront in 1996. The business has grown and prospered. Renton Western Wear is now Washington State’s premiere western attire store. They opened another large store in Tacoma, and a smaller venue in Puyallup known as The Outpost.

I’m inspired by stories like Ike’s as I am with so many of the immigrants who came to Renton and the area to start a new life. Their beginnings were so humble, yet through their willingness to work, they created opportunity, a good life for their families, and contributed to their community.

I appreciate Ike's simple premise and goal:

To provide his customers with "quality at reasonable prices"...

Lubumbashi, Zaire

Renton Western Wear

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