Start up of the Year

Discount Tobacco and Beverages

Discount Tobacco and Beverages
Rich and Kristi Franklin, owners
Grown to five employees

Rich and Kristi Franklin know a good opportunity when they see one. And when they saw how successful a Wenatchee friend had been with a few tobacco and beverage stores, they knew Vancouver was a good fit for a similar business.

“The numbers seemed to pencil out that it would be a good venture for us,” said Rich Franklin.

Discount Tobacco and Beverages opened its Highway 99 location in Vancouver in February 2005. The site was chosen for its accessibility and visibility.

The store’s 300-square-foot walk-in cooler houses a cold collection of beverages. Additionally, a portion of the 2,400-square-foot location is dedicated to several racks displaying a varied wine selection, not typical of an average convenience store. Discount Tobacco and Beverages also offers a full line of tobacco products, including a humidor for its assortment of cigars.

The store introduced monthly wine tasting this fall that attract 50 to 60 people. The selection of wine and cigars have also increased due to demand, said Franklin.

He is surprised by the store’s loyal customer base, including regular customers outside the immediate vicinity.

He expects business to continue to compound, especially through the summer. Franklin said his beer distributors continue to be amazed at the volume of products going through the store. He is focused on getting through the busy summer months before evaluating whether or not there is a good opportunity to expand into more locations.

The Franklins put in long hours to keep the store running. They work in the store every day of the week, he said. They are having fun, Franklin said, and look forward to getting back to it each morning.

The store’s staff has grown to include five part-time employees.

“We have not reached our peak potential yet,” said Franklin “We will continue to grow.”

Pro Golf of Vancouver

Pro Golf of Vancouver
Carol and Mike Merrill, owners
Largest golf retailer in the county

Carol and Mike Merrill opened Pro Golf of Vancouver in the Hazel Dell Towne Center in August. They entered the market late in the golf season, but are now well positioned to handle the spring rush as the sun begins to hit the fairways.

“There was a rush in February of people that had cabin fever,” said Mike Merrill.

The couple, self-described golf fanatics, left “corporate America” more than a year ago when plans for the shop began to materialize. They purchased into the Pro Golf Discount franchise, but the couple said the name and logo are where the franchise ends.

Carol Merrill has an engineering background and put it to use designing the store herself. Mike Merrill is a native Clark County resident, and Carol Merrill is originally from Hawaii, which comes through in the “aloha motif.”

Mike Merrill said growth anticipated for the I-5 corridor and a large population of high-income residents in the area make the Hazel Dell location an attractive site.

Pro Golf offers a full line of major golf brands, including equipment and apparel for men and women. In addition, the store has a repair shop and boasts the “only full-on golf simulator in the county.” Upon opening, Pro Golf’s 5,500-square-foot location immediately became the largest golf retail store in the county, said Merrill.

Customers can rent time on the simulator to play any of its 17 featured courses, or take lessons.

“We are trying to be the absolute go-to place for all things golf related,” said Merrill.

Carol Merrill said particular attention was paid to increasing the selection of products for women.

Pro Golf has five full- and part-time employees.

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