Historic Cash Register Display

Meet Charlie Ridder

There was a time when small general merchandise stores and green grocers served our family neighborhoods. These stores, mostly family run, provided essential goods and acted as a central place for people in the area to meet and talk. They were an essential part of a community and helped it prosper.

The West Linn Historical Society wants us to remember a local businessman that help build our community. His name was Charles A Ridder.

Charles with his wife Louise opened a General Store in the town of Willamette on July 14, 1919. The cash register on-display was manufactured in 1913 and was used daily in the Ridder’s store. Their location was not new to selling general merchandise to the public. The Ridders had taken over the location from the Leisman family another local family who had a general store in the same building starting in 1914.

Charles Ridder was what we would call today a business entrepreneur always stocking the store’s shelves with items that would sell quickly and special items his customers would request. Charles only finished the eighth grade, but that didn’t hamper him in 1919 passing the civil service examination to open a Post Office in the back of his store. Charles knew the mail service would bring new customers into his store. The Post Office would remain at the Ridder location until 1955.

Charles knew his business well because he had learned early and from the best. By the age of seventeen Charles had moved out of his parent’s home in Pleasant Hill and was living with the Aden family of Wilsonville, Oregon. He lived with his employer Mr. H.D. Aden and worked in the Aden store as a Store Clerk. The Aden’s Store was one of largest general merchandise stores in the state mostly serving the Wilsonville area.

Charles was a businessman, but he ran a business with a heart. The Ridders started a tradition at the store of making sure newlyweds in town always received a wedding gift from the whole community. Every time Charles or Louise discovered a young couple’s plans, the Ridders would start a fund to purchase a gift. You didn’t even need to know the couple to donate, you would simply add pennies, nickels and dimes to the wedding pot located at the store and the Ridders made sure the couple received a nice gift from the Willamette community on their special day.

The business was going well by the 1920‘s so well Charles brought his nephew into the trade. Glen Epler was a great help to his uncle and a real asset to the business. Even though Charles was busy running a business he took time to serve the community in other ways. Some say Charles Ridder and his store was the “seed” that started the West Linn Community Fair. Charles was on the original committee that planned the first fair in 1957.The fair was an outgrowth of the Willamette Grange fair. As a Grange member, Charles felt the present fair needed change for the growing community of Willamette. Charles was recognized for his many years’ working on the fair with the First Citizens of the Willamette and West Linn award in 1964.