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News / Business / Clark County Business

Retail sales, not new construction, now driving Ridgefield’s tax base

Taxable sales have boomed along with city’s population

By Sarah Wolf, Columbian staff writer
Published: June 1, 2024, 6:02am
7 Photos
Shops and restaurants are seen off Royle Road in Ridgefield. Retail in Ridgefield has boomed over the past 30 years. Retail sales in 2022 were about five times higher than they were in 2005.
Shops and restaurants are seen off Royle Road in Ridgefield. Retail in Ridgefield has boomed over the past 30 years. Retail sales in 2022 were about five times higher than they were in 2005. (Amanda Cowan/The Columbian) Photo Gallery

RIDGEFIELD — When Kurt Rylander was a grade-school kid in the 1970s, he and his friend used to bike downtown to buy candy at Zebrun’s. The longtime grocery store was one of the few retailers in Ridgefield for decades.

At the time, Ridgefield was predominantly farmland. The hills and valleys now covered by houses were fields dotted with old farmsteads. Teens would drive tractors to school.

Downtown had a hardware store and a variety store, where Rylander bought his first record. He got a bicentennial $2 bill in 1976 at Ridgefield’s First Independent Bank. The city didn’t have much else.

Since then, Ridgefield’s population has boomed — and so has business. Taxable retail sales were about five times higher in Ridgefield in 2022 than in 2005, according to data from the Washington Department of Revenue.

“Retail is just one of those amenities that all of our new residents expect when they come to Ridgefield,” said Marykay Lamoureaux, executive director of Ridgefield Main Street.

The city now looks exactly as planners intended, she said.

Near the freeway are businesses that appeal to the broader region, as well as employment opportunities with the development of a light industrial park, Ridgefield City Manager Steve Stuart said. Near the Royle Road and Pioneer Street intersection are businesses that appeal to residents — a grocery store, banks, restaurants, medical offices and so forth. But all that development supports the historic downtown, Stuart said.

“The downtown waterfront was reflective of the history of our downtown and the small-town charm that draws people here,” Stuart said.

The city has consistently been one of Washington’s fastest-growing municipalities. Ridgefield’s population has grown from 2,200 in 2000 to 10,300 in 2020, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

“If we didn’t have the population, we couldn’t support the retail,” said Suzy Rylander, who — like her husband, Kurt — grew up in Ridgefield. She’s co-owner of The Ridgefield Mercantile at 418 Pioneer St., which sells vintage home and garden décor.

Lamoureaux said each of the major retail spots, including downtown, appeals to customers for different reasons. The newer developments provide quick, convenient shopping. And downtown offers more unique small businesses, she said.

The city didn’t used to have the retail downtown to keep people shopping there. But that has changed.

“When you go downtown, you want to stay downtown,” Lamoureaux said.

Now, the city provides residents the chance to work and play where they live, she added.

Sales taxes collected by the city of Ridgefield used to rely heavily on new home construction, which isn’t sustainable, Stuart said.

“Once the building boom dies down, so does that revenue,” Stuart said. “But the service needs of all those people don’t go away — the police, the potholes (repaired), the parks that all those people need don’t vanish.”

In the past few years, the sales tax base has switched, now being driven by retail rather than new home construction. And it’s only expected to continue as more shops go in.

When Suzy Rylander and her partners bought the old Ridgefield grange two years ago, they didn’t know how much retail was going to grow near the Rosauers Supermarket.

Since that time, multiple retail developments have popped up there, bringing a bookstore, a gym, clothing stores, a couple of financial institutions, nail salons, a pet supply store, restaurants, several small medical offices and even stores selling home décor.

Near the freeway, Costco is building a store, along with California burger joint In-N-Out. Farther east, more retail has also started cropping up, most recently with the construction of Tractor Supply Co., Domino’s Pizza, and Junebug Play & Learning Space.

From Suzy Rylander’s perspective as a business owner, all the new retail in Ridgefield has been great.

“It makes it a destination,” she said.