Colin Lamb and the history of Lamb’s Garden Home Thriftway

Colin Lamb, 2012. Courtesy Elaine Shreve.

Colin Lamb, 2012. Courtesy Elaine Shreve.

April 22, 2010 by Colin Lamb

My Dad, Forrest Lamb, developed the first Lamb’s Thriftway in 1957 on the northeast section of the Garden Home intersection. Dad and his brother Robert had started a grocery business, Lamb Brothers Market, in Portland at N.W. 21st and Johnson in 1932.  We built a home in Raleigh Hills in 1954. In 1957, dad decided to open the Garden Home store and sold out his interest in the 21st and Johnson store to his brother. Dad decided it was time to leave the big city and open a new store in the country.  Well, that was Garden Home.

Garden Home Enterprises, Inc. was started by some people from Garden Home in 1955. They included Harriet Krom (who owned the nut orchard where the shopping center would be built). Also Gertrude Herzog (grandmother of Ward Nelson) who later bought out Frederick and Harvey Reinhardt (who built the shopping center). The group also included Grace Rennie and Helene Bucher (daughter of Gertrude Herzog). Garden Home Enterprises invested in homes, businesses, schools and a church in the Garden Home area.

Before and After – Aerial Photos Taken 1954, 1956 and 1957

1957 Grand Opening of Lamb’s Thriftway

The new Lamb’s Thriftway opened in 1957. A strip of four to six stores was built along the north side of the property. This included a hamburger place, possibly with ice cream, a cleaners, and a variety store. Later, other stores that opened were the pharmacy with Irv Huppen, the Big Tomato for pizza, and a Texaco service station on the corner where Shari’s is now located. The Garden Home Post Office with Margaret Smith was located in the back of the pharmacy. Later Elizabeth Rains was the postmistress and then her daughter Mary Rogers. Gradually, we purchased neighboring parcels to expand and eventually purchased the land from the original owners.

In the early years, we had a hitching post to park the horses. That was where the pharmacy ended up being built. Alpenrose Dairy built it for us.

1995 construction of the new Lamb’s Thriftway building and strip mall

The original store was 6,500 feet. We expanded 5 or 6 times between 1957 and 1980, when it became time to build a new building at the present location. A new store was built just east of the old store on the property in 1981 as shown in this photo with the yellow and white signs showing the new store  on the far right. Garden Home Interiors had gone into the 1957 store. Over the years with various configurations of the shopping center, we had a True Value Hardware store in the old store, a gift store, the Uetz family cleaners, Garden Home Interiors, and a craft shop. In 1995, we enlarged our store and tore down all the old shops to build our present center. Today, our store is over 50,000 square feet. The stores in the northern strip include Baskin and Robbins Ice Cream, Starbucks Coffee, Blockbuster, Elevations Hair Design shop, the Cleaners, Maxim European Deli, a used book store Re-View, and the Premier Martial Arts Center. Shari’s restaurant is on the northeast corner of the intersection.

[Editor’s note: Colin Lamb tells us that the new and current (2019) store building was first constructed east of the 1957 original store and mall businesses. The new store building opened in 1981. It was 25,000 square feet and they continued to run the store during the expansion construction to achieve the present building with the bell tower. They enlarged the building to 50,000 square feet in 1996. The previous store building and mall were torn down to make room for Shari’s and the newer strip mall on the northern edge of the property.]

In 1957, the cash register machines were mechanical but assisted with an electric motor. When the power was out the hand crank was used. When my dad was closing the store one day, he was running the receipts and then put them on a sharp spindle. Somehow, the sharp spindle went through his hand. He insisted on finishing up his work before going to the hospital. About 1958 my Dad got a call at home after the store had closed. A customer wanting to watch TV, asked him to come down and open the store so he could test his TV tubes and get a good picture.

The electricity was off in the Garden Home area for about a week after the Columbus Day storm in 1962. Of course, many homes had no heat so Dad left the presto logs out in the front of the store with a note to pay for them the next day. I think we got full payment. We lost our perishable food but then we didn’t have as many freezer and refrigerated items as we do now. Most of the produce section was root crops and winter stable foods. We just added up the grocery charges with a pad and pencil at the check stands.

Because we are a little above the surrounding area, in about 1904 the Oregon Electric put a big ditch in the property now at the north end of our center. After the tracks were removed, it was just a big gully that attracted trash, so just about 100 years later, we put the dirt back where it came from.  We also put in a wetlands area where the runoff from the shopping center goes.

When the store was built, in 1957, there were two problems – there were not enough people and we were in a recession.  Finances were tight and the whole family was put to work.  Dad worked seven days a week, mostly 12 hour days. My Mom, Neva, learned to wrap meat. Until then, she did not have a driver’s license and she had to learn to drive so that we could deliver flyers from door to door.

By 1958, we were out of money and probably should have closed the store. However, the economy started improving and more people were moving into the area.  With assistance from Alpenrose Dairy, we were able to refinance and were soon able to stand on our own. The original store was 6,500 square feet. We expanded 5 or 6 times between 1957 and 1980, when it became time to build a new building at the present location. In 1995, we enlarged our store and tore down all the old shops to build our present center. Today, our store is over 50,000 square feet.

Mom moved from the meat department to bookkeeping and guarded the checkbook with an iron fist. She finally “retired” at age 92. Her son, Gary, used to drive her to work every day and when he passed away, she thought it was time to retire.

There was a barber shop and typewriter shop across the street from us in the building owned by the Elks. It had no second story roof or windows for decades. It currently sports extravagant murals on three sides of the building and has housed a variety of businesses including a real estate office. We built the townhouses on the northern edge of our property in 2006. Whitney’s Cannery was on the current Old Market Pub site. Comella’s produce store was located here for a number of years in the 1970s. The Upchurch store burned in 1956 before our store began. The railroad tracks were removed in 1949. The passenger service to the south was discontinued in the 1930s.

The City of Portland annexed the shopping center although it is in Washington County. They rezoned the northern area residential to encourage us to build the townhouses. Washington County maintains the roads. The property on Oleson road and the roadway is part of Beaverton. The Garden Home Recreation Center across the street has been annexed into Beaverton. The property to the south of Garden Home Road and most other nearby areas are in unincorporated Washington County.

My twin brother Gary and my older brother Bob and I attended Raleigh Hills Elementary School and graduated from Beaverton High School. I went on to Willamette University and graduated from the Willamette Law School. My dad Forrest Lamb died in 1987 and my mother, Neva Lamb in 2004.

Editor’s note:  The obituary for Neva Lamb is below. Lamb’s Thriftway is a unique and popular place to shop. We’re sure to greet a neighbor in the wonderful produce section. Each aisle is named for an Oregon town in alphabetical order beginning in  produce: Astoria, Baker, Corvallis, Dundee, Eugene, Frenchglen, Garibaldi, Halfway, Imnaha, Joseph, Klamath, Manzanita, Newport and Ontario (my hometown). Historical photos and art of the early store and the trains of Garden Home decorate the walls. The 100 year old bell from the first Garden Home Community Church hangs in the clock tower. We hosted a wonderful Bell Ringing in October of 2009 to kick off our Garden Home History Project. Colin Lamb has been an active and generous participant in our community.

Obituary for Neva Lamb

Obituary for Neva Lamb

Editor’s note: We received the the photo below via Robin Ariss remembers a stuffed elephant in Lamb’s Thriftway: I am the shorter one my sister is the taller and I think this was taken in 1962 when I was 5.

Stuffed elephant in Lambs Thriftway - Robin Ariss

Stuffed elephant in Lambs Thriftway – Robin Ariss – I am the shorter one my sister is the taller and I think this was taken in 1962 when I was 5

Editor’s note: In 2015, Lamb’s Thriftway store was sold to a local company, Signature Northwest LLC, and renamed Garden Home Market Place. This company also purchased three other Lamb grocery businesses and two Bales Thriftway stores, one in Cedar Mill and one in Aloha. Click here to read more.

Editor’s note: Colin Lamb very generously gave to Garden Home History for display in the community seven large format colorized photos and three train reliefs that were displayed inside the grocery store for many years. The Old Market Pub now has the three train reliefs and the two Lewis & Clark Centennial photos and the vintage Garden Home Postal Safe. Two more photos are to be displayed at the Garden Home Recreation Center and three photos in the Garden Home Library.


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24 Responses to Colin Lamb and the history of Lamb’s Garden Home Thriftway

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  23. Janet Lekas Chapman says:

    I have such frond memories of “walking up to the store” from Hunt Club Lane; we moved into the Ambrose Cronin home in 1964. A group of neighbor kids from the Bernard, Dignan, Bristow, Watson, Hurst and Lekas families often invaded Lamb’s with our pockets full of pennies, nickels and dimes to purchase candy and other treats. We’d stop into Alice and Elmer’s ice cream shop at the west end of the Lamb’s complex for black licorice ice cream cones. I remember the horrified look on my mother’s face returning home with a black grin and lips.
    For Halloween we’d cover a lot of ground in Garden Home, returning home with double pillow cases full of candy. Our favorite, and often last stop, was the Aaron Frank estate who gave out “25 cent Hershey chocolate bars” ! I recall one year they ran out of candy, and rather than turn us away, invited the trick-or-treat gang in for ice cream sundaes.

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