The owners began their Ben Franklin Variety store on May 29, 1975 with 5 employees. This was the same week that Bill Gates started Microsoft in Redmond. There are no further similarities between the two businesses!

By 1979, the population had nearly doubled. Bellevue square opened and the downtown area of Redmond became impacted by a huge increase in residential traffic. In late 1979, after a year of tremendous growth in sales with no improvements in profits, the decision was made to enter what was then the still fledgeling craft business.

The gradual shift from variety to crafts began with an artificial flower department made up entirely of plastic flowers. Next was the addition of beads and macramé along with a greatly expanded fabric offering. Then in 1981 came the first painting classes and all items related to "tole painting". The Frame Shop was opened in 1984 with two staff members. That same year the Sierra Pacific Crafts organization was formed by the Redmond Ben Franklin owners, and owners of other independent craft business in Oregon and Washington.

In 1986 the last of the former variety lines of merchandise were closed out. There was an addition of a modern frame shop work area and full expansion of the crafts lines was completed. Remodeling the store every three years to accommodate space formerly devoted to the state liquor store was added and the modern era of crafts merchandising began. The business became an entertainment, activity-driven business dedicated to outstanding customer service and innovation. From 1986 to 1996, the staff grew from less than 30 to more than 80 dedicated, creative people. 

 

On May 14, 2016, we gave a presentation on the 41-year history of our store as part of the Redmond Historical Society's Saturday Speaker Series.