As of Tuesday, September 30, 2014
Farm and orchard equipment retailer Sheppard’s has been at its location near the corner of First and State streets in downtown Hood River since the beginning of the Great Depression, but it appears it’s time for a change.
Last week, the Port of Hood River voted to enter into a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with Sheppard’s that calls for the relocation of the business to a yet-to-be constructed facility on port property located at the corner of North Second Street and Riverside Drive, adjacent to Hood River Juice Company (Ryan’s Juice).
The MOU, which has yet to be approved in its final form according to Port Executive Director Michael McElwee, calls for Sheppard’s to purchase 1.93 acres at the rate of $8.20 per square foot, which McElwee said works out to approximately $874,000, subject to survey and title report.
The business is run by the father-and-son team of Craig and Ben Sheppard and is noted as one of the oldest family-run businesses in Hood River. However, both Ben and Craig agree the business is outgrowing its downtown location.
“It’s a logistical issue,” Ben explained of the move.
The business has been around for 95 years and at its First and State location for “10 years less than that,” said Craig. According to Sheppard’s website, the business was originally founded by brothers Charles and William Sheppard (Ben’s great-great uncle and great grandfather, respectively) in 1919 in Odell before moving to Hood River.
Today, the operation consists of two buildings located directly across First Street from one another: the west building consists of offices, parts, storage, assembly, and a small showroom while the east building primarily consists of an assembly and service area.
However, the cramped conditions of a congested downtown, particularly in summer, can make loading and unloading a hassle, especially when that load consists of heavy machinery. Craig and Ben also noted their customers need easier access to the business from main highways such as Highway 35 and Interstate 84.
“Our main reason (for relocating) is to be in a central location,” Craig explained.
Ben added that “the vast majority” of equipment that arrives at Sheppard’s, which sells lawn and garden equipment in addition to small tractors from manufacturers like Kubota and John Deere, arrives disassembled. The parts are assembled in the shop located in the east building and Ben said they need more space to do so, as well as service customers’ equipment.
The Sheppards didn’t have too many details to reveal about the actual building that would be constructed down at the port, but Ben noted he wanted a building where form was just as important as function.
“We want to build something appealing,” he said. “We’re not interested in something that just looks like a large lot of tractors.”
Ben added that he and Craig also were looking to have portions of green space around the building to serve, in part, as “places where we could actually demonstrate our equipment to customers onsite,” a feature that is unavailable at Sheppard’s downtown location.
Sheppard’s currently employs about 10 people and Ben noted the expansion could result in the hiring of more, but didn’t mention a specific number. According to the MOU, the port’s waterfront development strategy “requires a minimum job density of one job for each 1,000 square feet of building improvement built in the Waterfront Business Park subdivision.”
The MOU also requires that numerous conditions be satisfied before closing, including obtaining land use approval and building permits for the city, getting a jobs plan approved by the port, and getting approval from the port of the final construction drawings.
According to the text of the document, the MOU is “intended to be a non-binding agreement” until the two parties enter a “more definitive” disposition and development agreement (DDA) that fleshes out more details of the project. The MOU states that both parties must agree to a mutually acceptable DDA no later than March 25, 2015.
As for the fate of the current Sheppard’s property, Ben said there were “no exact plans yet,” but noted, “I don’t anticipate we will be selling it.”