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Aug. 15, 2022

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Ron Keil, founder of Clark County grocery store chain, dies at 88

By , Columbian Innovation Editor
3 Photos
Former local grocery store owner Ron Keil died on June 29 at age 88.
Former local grocery store owner Ron Keil died on June 29 at age 88. (The Columbian files) Photo Gallery

Former local grocery store chain owner Ron Keil, who founded and owned Keil’s Grocery and built his small empire to seven stores in Clark County and around the Pacific Northwest, died on June 29 at age 88.

Keil opened the first store in 1954 in the Longview-Kelso area after serving in the U.S. Army and graduating from Clark College and the University of Oregon.

In 1968, he became president of the Washington State Food Dealers Association. The next year, he was appointed to the Board of Trustees for Clark College as part of his long-running history of giving to the community.

“Ron was a very giving man,” said his stepson, Bart Hansen.” He cared a lot about his family. He was involved in various local charities.”

In early 1976, Keil invested in a new scanning technology for the grocery chain. The scanners have “sensitive eyes that read codes standing for the type of grocery item and its price,” the development was described in a Columbian news story at the time.

In 1985, Keil sold six of the stores to Safeway, including the Vancouver location, but he sold one location to a local employee who renamed it St. Johns IGA, which closed in 2013.

Keil was elected to the Identity Clark County board of directors in the early 2000s, and in 2012, PeaceHealth Southwest Medical Center Foundation named him to the board of directors.

Keil remained in ownership of various properties in Vancouver, including Fourth Plain Center until he sold the property for over $21 million in 2017.

Keil contracted COVID-19 and beat it, Hansen said. He died quietly in his sleep on Tuesday.

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