Buzz Wheeler, owner of Coastal Farm & Ranch stores based in Albany, has Midwestern roots but a mid-valley heart.
Wheeler, 64, has owned the farm supply store chain founded in 1963, for 24 years and believes strongly in rewarding his employees and supporting communities in Oregon and Washington where stores are located. The company’s motto: “Just What the Country Needs.”
Customers can buy everything from nuts and bolts to leather furniture, pellet and wood burning stoves, to clothing, boots and livestock feed.
Wheeler — a University of Northern Colorado graduate — was managing a farm store in Nebraska when he was asked by the owners of the Orscheln Company if he would consider moving to Oregon to manage Coastal Farm & Ranch stores they had purchased in Albany, Woodburn and Eugene.
He visited the area, liked what he saw and offered to buy the stores.
There were eight employees in those days and the operation has grown to more than 350 employees with stores in Oregon and Washington.
In 2013, the 42,000-square-foot Albany store at the corner of Highway 34 and Goldfish Farm Road was completely remodeled. The store had operated for many years out of a building on Pacific.
Buzz and his wife, Sheila, are strong supporters of programs for children, including 4H and FFA programs. They also support the SafeHaven Humane Society and the Mid-Willamette YMCA.
“We’re for anything that helps kids,” Wheeler told the Democrat-Herald in 2012 when he was named the Best Local Person of the Year.
In 2007, when budget cuts threatened whether paddle boats would operate on Waverly Lake, Coastal Farm stepped up and provided funding to keep them going.
Wheeler said his business has been successful because his employees are farm people, who understand the needs of their customers because they need and buy those same products.
Oregon stores are in Albany, Eugene, Woodburn, Roseburg, White City (Big R), Cornelius, Gresham, Oregon City, The Dalles, Redmond (Big R) and Klamath Falls (Big R).
Washington stores are in Mount Vernon, Auburn, Yakima and Wenatchee.