It all started when Harold E. Blanton, was talked into (by "Uncle George") moving to Packwood in the late fifties. Harold E. Blanton, the father of now retired Harold Blanton, who is the father of Hal who is running the business. The Blantons now expands a long tradition of business within the community.
Harold E. Blanton ended up owning and operating the then Packwood Cafe.
After a few years, he sold the cafe and built Harold's Recreation, a soda fountain and billiard parlor where the Peters Inn Restaurant now sits.
Harold E. Blanton and Harold Blanton Senior opened the Blanton's Mini-Mart on April 1, 1977.
The mini-mart with Hal's dad was Harold E. Blanton's last venture before retirement. Harold E. Blanton passed, just a few days short of his 90th birthday.
Hal Blanton joined the business with his dad and granddad in 1981. He worked for Kentucky Fried Chicken, and later was an agent with the national Federation of Independent Businesses.
By 1981, the mini-mart had a meat counter, and that was Hal's introduction to the grocery business.
But at the beginning, upon the young Hal's arrival in Packwood, Bob's Trading Post burned down.
When it became apparent that Bob's Trading Post would not be rebuilt (Diversified Realty then occupied the site), the Blantons began thinking about a major expansion. "If we didn't do something, somebody else in town, or somebody else might come in and build a larger grocery store to service the needs of Packwood," said Blanton.
"We started making plans about the middle of 1985".
The plans culminated on that April Fools's Day of 1988, with Packwood's first modern full-service grocery store.
Blanton's dad, Harold Senior, continued to be active in the business until his retirement.
Blanton Senior states that "Packwood is such a wonderful place to come to, particularly in the summertime". Blanton says he can't imagine a better place to live and or retire. Blanton also says that it is important for him and his family to contribute to the community. "We feel a real obligation, a real responsibility to the Packwood community and all of the East Lewis County community", says Blanton. "We strive very hard to put back into the community"
When the mini-mart first opened, the Blantons saw potential in the fact that the nearest large supermarket was 65 miles away in Chehalis. Despite the distance, a survey done for them by SUPERVALU showed that 50 per cent of the groceries being purchased by residents in the Packwood area were being purchased in Chehalis/Centralia stores.
The Blantons wanted that business for their store. They also feared that a chain from outside the area might see the same potential and put in its own store. The fact that senior citizens have discovered the area as a place to retire increased the likelihood of future competition from outside sources if they didn't act.
Around 1985, when Harold and his son began seriously considering expansion. It was a difficult decision to make. The old store was fully paid for and the business was turning a profit. The potential for adding to the existing building was small due to engineering problems and what limited parking space was left. They realized that the nearest large supermarket was 65 miles away in Chehalis and wanted to serve their customers in Packwood better.
There was one final consideration important for the Blantons. "We like it here and want to continue to contribute to the community," states Hal Blanton. Hal relates the words of one local woman who told him when he broached the subject of expansion, "You owe it to us." So off to the bank they went. A year later they had the financing. If we moved as slow as some of those guys (lending institutions) we'd be out of business", Blanton says. Construction began in November, 1987 and the Blantons began preparing for the move to the new store.
By expanding business hours to around the clock at the old store, they were able to expand their staff from 7 to 14 people and have them all trained by the time the new store opened in April. Staying open 24 hours had the added benefit of increasing sales 15 per cent before the move to the new store was even made.
Now that they were in the new facility, the Blantons were now focusing on maintaining the same friendly service that brought people into their old store in spite of inconveniences like cramped aisles and limited selection. "This is a people business" states Blanton. "In a small town, it's especially important to treat people like they're part of your family instead of just taking their money".
To make sure that the "friendly old fashioned service", theme that Blanton's Market uses in its advertising still rings true, cashiers have been encouraged to do something that goes somewhat counter to the way its done in the megamarkets. Despite the potential the scanner provides for increasing speed at the checkout line, the cashiers have been advised to take it easy and talk to the customers if things aren't too busy. "We don't need to be an assembly line here", states Blanton.
To the Blantons, the addition of scanners was a way to maintain a high degree of customer service. "We want our labor dollars concentrating on customer service, not on marking prices", Blanton also states.
The convenience store began with less than 2,000 square feet of space on a site now occupied by the packwood Liquor Store.
Within a couple of years, the Blantons had expanded the store to about 3,300 square feet.
The next milestone was April Fool's Day of 1988, when the current Blanton's Market opened as a full-service grocery store with roughly 8000 square feet of space.
To step back in time, the Blantons personifies the finest tradition of the grocery industry, the Blantons have stuck their necks out to give their customers what they were asking for. April 1, 1988, the Blantons announced the grand opening of their new store in Packwood, WA., and celebrated with festivities including a free drawing of a trip to Reno, free samples, and bicycle giveaways. They even went as far as serenading their customers all weekend with a piano player on a baby grand.
In the new store, they doubled the size of their fresh meat department, and more than doubled their fresh produce. There is twice the room in the frozen foods, beverage and dairy displays. The aisles are wide enough for two-way traffic! A Washington Wine display, popcorn machine, hot coffee, deli and complete movie rentals are more conveniences and services you'll find at the all new Blanton's Market. Hal once stated, "We don't need to be an assembly line here," as he encourages his employees to take it easy and talk to customers if things aren't too busy.
The new store offered Packwood and surrounding area residents quality merchandise, greater selection, value and better customer service. The new scanning system made the check out quicker and more accurate. At the same time time as all this expanding and updating, Blanton's Market still hasn't lost that one-on-one personal touch with its customers. When you shop at the all new Blanton's Market you'll be greeted with that same friendly, old-fashioned service Blanton's Market is known for!