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Ferndale Grains plans to close next month

Ferndale Grains

Ferndale Grains is planning on closing its Woodinville granary as soon as Aug. 1 due to economic conditions. Speculation on what will take its place has begun, including the possibility of tearing down the silos and building a restaurant.
Photo by Matt Schroeder/Woodinville Weekly.

Ferndale Grains by Jeff Switzer
WOODINVILLE--A significant part of the landscape here could be gone as soon as September. Ferndale Grains, which has been operating since 1990 in facilities that are part of Woodinville's historic past, plans to close its doors Aug. 1 and shift its operations to other locations, and speculation has begun on what will happen to the site.
   According to Ray Gearheart, general manager for Ferndale Grains, the granary has needed to expand for some time to meet demand, but due to economic reasons and limitations of the Woodinville site--such as the age of the mill, storage capacity, and congestion at the entrance--they've decided to use primarily their Ferndale and Sunnyside locations.
   "This is something we've looked at for several years, though the decision was only just made within the past month," Gearheart said. He said that when budget time rolled around, the company decided to shift the money from expanding the Woodinville site to expanding Sunnyside instead, as there are freight, dairy, and agricultural market advantages there.
   Located in a predominantly residential area, just across the tracks from an apartment complex, Ferndale Grains has tried to be a good neighbor, shifting their noisy hours to free up the evening and installing dust collectors.
   "The community will probably be glad to see us go," Gearheart said. "Rail cars banging around are not conducive to sitting on your deck."
   Gearheart said the company does $15 to $20 million each year in processing 120,000 tons of dairy feed, including rolled corn, barley corn, and soybean pellets, all out of the Woodinville location.
   Fred Helgeson, who has worked in maintenance at the granary for five years, says they'd heard rumors and talk, but nobody knew for sure until a production meeting last week.
   "We were all in shock Wednesday," said Helgeson. "Everyone here is saddened; three or four people here have been running trucks out of here for 25 years."
   The granary has stood as it is since the 1960s when Lowell DeYoung rebuilt it following the destruction of the first granary in a fire. Since then, it has changed hands numerous times.
   "It's kind of sad to see people who have worked there for a long time lose work, but we are offering jobs at our other locations," Gearheart said.
   Rumors about what will happen to the site include razing the silos and selling them for scrap metal while keeping the warehouse and office open. Another possibility sees a restaurant there.
   Ferndale Grains has a long-term lease with Burlington-Northern Railroad for the site, though the company has not yet decided what they will do with the buildings.