Longtime Sunnyside merchant approaches 100th birthday


John Killingstad

President Franklin Roosevelt was in office and the United States was in the tail-end of WWII when John Killingstad and his brothers moved to Sunnyside.

For nearly the next 40 years the "three boys" were a staple in downtown Sunnyside selling items from their Killingstad Bros. store, which sold hardware, furniture and appliances.

The "three boys" are now just one and Killingstad will celebrate his 100th birthday with friends Tuesday, May 27, at 6:30 p.m., at the Sunnyside Masonic Temple.

Born in Chicago in 1908, Killingstad and his family moved to Canada to farm before settling in the Washington state area.

It was in 1944 the "three brothers" purchased the Haney and Skiles store on Sixth Street in downtown Sunnyside.

John's wife of 55 years, Mary, said Stan Killingstad was a salesman in Yakima, Gordon Killingstad worked for an implement company in Yakima and John had just left the National Wholesale Grocery Company in Seattle.

"The three of them wanted to go into business for themselves," she said.

When the Haney and Skiles store came up for sale, the "three brothers", a moniker given by Ross Haney, bought the place.

John admitted it was a little different moving from the metropolitan area of Seattle to the small-town atmosphere of Sunnyside. But he quickly got over that once he started meeting the people and getting involved with different projects.

Killingstad was very active in the Kiwanis Club and the Masonic Lodge. In the latter he served as Master in 1949.

He was also very instrumental in getting the Sunnyside Presbyterian Church built.

Killingstad Bros. was known as a high-end store, offering Lower Valley residents hardwood furniture from back east.

"That's what sold then," Mrs. Killingstad said. "Hanford was booming then."

Electricity was also becoming more common in the valley and with that came the want for electrical appliances.

Even though the store was considered high-end the Killingstads never thought of it as that. To them, it was the "working man's store".

The store grew fast, from four people in 1944 to 15 employees in 1947. Eventually there would be 17 employees working in the store.

The Killingstads offered in-house financing, would make appointments at night to allow the husband and wife to shop together, and promised free delivery to anywhere in the state of Washington.

Eventually the Killingstads' nephew, Caroden Hole, came on board and managed the hardware and sporting goods departments, increasing the number of family members involved.

Things changed dramatically throughout the 40 years the Killingstads were in business. He said he carried flat irons and then moved to electrical irons. Early on, the washing machines were tubs that needed a wringer attachment to wring out the clothes. There were no spin cycles or clothes dryers back then.

Most of the hardware were in bins and sold bulk, unlike today when everything is packaged neatly.

The "three brothers" sold the business in 1983 and John and Mary moved to Yakima.

A small family gathering will take place Sunday, May 25, at the Killingstads' home. This is the actual day John was born on.

Asked how he felt about turning 100-years-old, John simply replied, "...it's just like any other day."

Not really, not a lot of people can say they've reached the 100-year milestone, but one doesn't argue with a man with a century of experience.


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