A Look at Ellensburg's Oldest Businesses
The charming town of Ellensburg simply wouldn’t be the same without the abundance of unique local businesses that fill the historic buildings and line our downtown streets. For over 50 years, or even 100 in some cases, these Ellensburg businesses have contributed to our community, welcomed us with open arms, and have certainly demonstrated the local commitment to providing exceptional service from start to finish. Let us introduce you to these establishments and tell you their stories. It is our pleasure to offer you this glimpse into Ellensburg’s oldest businesses:
Fitterer's Furniture, since 1896
Next year will mark 125 wonderful years of service for Ellensburg’s family-owned furniture store Fitterer’s. The store has been operating under the same family, in the same town and largely in the same building since 1896. This is quite the feat considering all that has happened in the past 124 years. Since its beginning, Fitterer’s has remained open through two World Wars (1914-1918, 1939-1945), the Great Depression (1929-1933), the Great Recession (2007-2009), and a host of other challenges. The staff contributes this success to their ability to remain a constant through the “occasional chaos.” According to Fitterer’s, what makes them truly unique is their commitment to providing the service that you miss from “way back when” combined with the furniture that you want in 2020. When you walk into the store, you can count on a personal greeting from the friendly sales staff – they’ll probably even offer you a cookie or hot coffee too! When you place an order, your sales person will hand write your ticket. When you make a payment, they’ll crank the handle on a 116 year old cash register. They will travel throughout the state to deliver orders for their customers, and they do it at no charge for their Central Washington neighbors. This is a place where things are still done in a uniquely traditional manner, always putting the customer experience first. The folks at Fitterer’s know many of their customers by name and are big supporters of the Ellensburg community. After all, they’ve been here building it (or at least furnishing it) since the beginning!
Palace Cafe, since 1892
Although the Palace Cafe has shifted ownership and moved buildings through the years, it has been serving Ellensburg the same quality of service for over a century. The storied cafe serves American eats amid tin ceilings and wainscoting in a 1908 brick storefront downtown. Mr. S. C. Smith began the downtown family tradition of The Palace in 1892 at 312 N. Main, next to the Fitterer building. After five years, he sold the business for just $325 to William B. Price, famous for being “one among the ol’ boys who sets a first class table and thoroughly understands his business.” In the early 1900s, Thomas Massouras became the new owner at the restaurant’s new site on the corner of 3rd and Main, a profitable location because of its proximity to the railroad depot. However, by the 1940s rail travel had diminished and the restaurant was sold again, this time to Ted Wicks. Wicks operated The Palace during World War II until finally closing shop in 1947. The story of The Palace does not end there, however, because in 1949 he again lifted the restaurant’s shutters, now at its present site in the Pearson Building. Once reopened, the business passed through new ownership twice more, now proudly in the hands of the Bugni family. Remaining an Ellensburg family tradition through it all, The Palace continues to provide the highest standards in food and service.
Central Washington University, since 1891
The doors of the Washington State Normative School in Ellensburg opened in 1891. Mr. Benjamin Franklin Barge was the first principal of the school, which was founded to educate future elementary and junior high teachers. Classes were held at the Washington Public School until the normal school’s first building, Barge Hall, opened in 1893. The normal school became Central Washington College of Education in 1937, Central Washington State College in 1961, and Central Washington University in 1977. Today, CWU is a comprehensive university that provides high quality programs to more than 13,000 people. The university is a point of pride among locals and the alma mater of many in the area.
Campus U-Tote-Em, since 1947
Established in 1947, Campus U-Tote-Em is a classic burger joint that transports you back to the ’50s with every bite of their traditional fast food. Known through the generations, high school kids of the ’50s, ’60s, and ’70s would hang out and eat in their cars outside of the restaurant. Nowadays, folks love to bring their children and grandchildren in to reminisce about their favorite high school hangout. The highway in front of the restaurant, known as 8th Avenue, was once the main highway to Spokane, making Campus U-Tote-Em a popular roadside stop as well. Their popularity stems from the focus on providing food that people love with a side of outstanding service. They embrace a philosophy of “Quality over Quantity,” believing that you can go to any fast food business for quantity, but only at Campus U-Tote-Em will you find the freshest, highest quality product available, not to mention the fast and friendly service experience that they’re known for. The secret seasoning used on the hamburgers offers added flavor that sets them apart from competitors, and they also make and sell their own tartar sauce!
Jerrol's, since 1947
Jerrol’s is a third generation family owned and operated department store that has been serving their diverse range of products to the residents, businesses and visitors of Ellensburg for over 70 years. The name Jerrol’s came from the names of the founders’ (Don and Irene Williams) sons; three letters from Jerry and three letters from Rolf. The unique assortment of products has earned the store a reputation for being the “Store with the Whole World Inside.” In fact, the wide scale of product offerings made it difficult to describe the store’s specialty and was cause for confusion, causing several name changes over the years. In 1947 through the mid-sixties, the store was known as Jerrol’s Handy Stop/Shop, however in the late sixties “Handy Stop/Shop” was dropped. Around 1985, “Book & Supply Co.” was added to the name to reflect the true product selection – although most folks still know them as just Jerrol’s.
Winegar's, since 1956
Winegar’s Homemade Ice Cream & Coffee has been three generations in the making, already beginning to see the fourth generation get their hands dirty alongside the third! From humble beginnings as a dairy farm in 1956, the founding of Winegar’s Drive-In Dairy came in 1960 when all milking females except one were sold to generate enough money to build a modern milking parlor, small bottling plant, and a retail store. Over the years, the business expanded and more family members got involved.
The ice cream business came to fruition in 1992 when Richelle Winegar graduated from Central Washington University and brought to life her grandparents’ desire to make ice cream. After several months of planning, buying equipment and getting set up, the northwest ice cream guru, Bud Haxby, came to Ellensburg to teach Richelle how to make several different flavors and textures of ice cream. Due to unforeseen circumstances, however, Richelle was without flavoring for the new ice cream and the pair were forced to experiment with grocery store items including maple flavoring, walnuts, lemon flavoring, and yogurt, as well as espresso shots brewed in the store. This process of trial and error began a passion for creative flavor pairings that customers have come to expect from the local shop. The very first flavor of Winegar’s ice cream was “Nutty Truman,” made from the Winegar’s basic mix plus maple and walnuts. The espresso shots made that day were also used to create the first version of what is now Kori’s Coffee ice cream. Winegar’s ice cream was and is to this day a truly unique creation, and the Winegar’s are proud to put their name on it. All ice cream names have something to do with the family or the Kittitas Valley.