Thursday, April 9, 2009

If Ed Orkney Hadn't Died Back In '76, This Would Have Killed Him

When we heard that (GI)Joes was going into bankruptcy, a lot of us hoped the handwriting wasn't on the wall, though deep down, a lot of us knew it was.

How did we know? The seeds were planted when an equity firm bought what was then GI Joe's, a Northwest friend since all of us can remember. GI Joe's was forever, man.

In retrospect, I think the surprising thing was how fast Joe's collapsed. From cherry property for expansion and competition on 2007 to failing company by the end of 2008, mere weeks after opening its 31st location in Nampa, Idaho – that's fast enough to make one's head swim.

We maybe really knew it in our gut when they did the "G.I"-ectomy, turning G.I. Joe's , the friendly Northwest friend, into Joe's Sports, Outdoors, and More, a name generic enough to go up against any sports retailer in any market.

Trouble is, there were already too many of them.

I don't know how long the late Mr. Orkney figured his business would last when he started it in that tent on North Vancouver Avenue in 1952. And I'm pretty sure that Norm Daniels didn't figure that when Gryphon got a controlling interest in Joe's that they would go and de-Oregonize the name and then see the company into a swift decline.

But that's what we got.

One of my first memories was the store opening in Salem in 1976, when we could finally go to G.I. Joe's whenever we wanted and not just on our all-to-infrequent jaunts to Stumptown. It was the first store opened outside the Portland area, and the fifth G.I. Joe's, on the way to 31 locations across the Northwest.

Those were good times, my friends. Good times.

G'bye, G.I. Joe's.


  1. The demise of Joe's doesn't come as a surprise; when the company sold out to Gryphon, I knew it was lost.

  2. I kind of assumed the same thing. Probably the only difference between us is that you were probably a lot more honest with yourself about it than I was.

    I knew there was a nearly-perfect chance that Joe's would go away, but I kept hoping I'd be wrong about that. I'm foolishly optimistic like that.