Dufur Market, Revived

Historic Business Sees New Life With Azure Standard’s Involvement

Story and photos by Drew Myron

Refinished floors, fresh paint and an expanded seating area at Dufur Market on Main Street create an inviting spaciousness.

Kramer’s Market is back. Sort of.

Dufur’s landmark business, in a historic two-story brick storefront on the corner of Main Street, is alive again with a new name, new operators and a dramatic renovation.

The 119-year-old store—now named Dufur Market—has been invigorated with investment from Azure Standard, a health food distributor with headquarters in Dufur and a distribution warehouse in Moro.

Azure Standard is one of the nation’s largest independent distributors of natural, organic foods and home, health, cleaning and garden products. The company has 800,000 active customers and 180 employees.

History of a Landmark Building

The building that houses Dufur Market was built in 1904 by the Johnston brothers. The 80-by-94-foot building featured electric lights and the town’s first electric elevator. The first floor served as a general store. The second floor featured a ballroom, along with offices for a dentist, doctor and lawyer, according to Dufur Living History Museum.

The building has been owned by a succession of family and friends.

In 1935, Sylvester “Vesty” Kramer, the butcher working at the general store, bought the building and changed the name to Kramer’s. In 1947, he tore out the ballroom to create apartments.

In 1959, Vesty’s son, Than, took over management and later turned the store over to his son, Steve.

Steve ran Kramer’s Market for 20 years. In 2000, he sold the store to his sister, Shari.

In 2007, Shari sold the building to John Dillion, a local investor who also owns Dufur Valley Tavern. John installed a new heating and cooling system and repaired the roof.

As the only market in a town of 600 people, Kramer’s hummed along as a source of food, drinks and snacks. But in the summer of 2022, the market abruptly closed. For months, the store sat empty, joining a line of lifeless storefronts in the city’s half-block core.

Azure Revitalizes Market

David Brown, Azure Standard’s project manager, orchestrated the renovation of the historic market.

Buoyed by record sales, in 2023 Azure Standard stepped up to renovate the building and revitalize the market. John still owns the building. Azure Standard, headed by David Stelzer, carries the lease to operate the business.

The new market opened in April 2023 with significant changes. The original pine floors and heavy beams were restored to a gleam. Dark walls were replaced with light hues. Fans and lighting brightened the space. Shelves were lowered and labeled, and aisles widened. Seating was expanded and elevated to a smooth, clean shine. Dufur Market is now light, bright and inviting.

“Customers are stunned when they walk in,” says David Brown, Azure’s project manager who led the four-month renovation. “My favorite one was when some kids came in. Their eyes were wide, and then one said, ‘It’s like a New Seasons Market in the middle of nowhere.’”

Appearance isn’t the only change. Shelves are stocked with organic, natural, healthy food.

“No Doritos, Red Bull or cigarettes,” David says. “That’s a big change.” Instead, shoppers find organic produce and a selection of Azure brand groceries, along with a cafe offering made-to-order deli sandwiches, made-from-scratch soups, salads, burgers, fries, pies, muffins, cookies, and local beer and wine. A coffee bar, dubbed The Forge Coffee, offers specialty drinks and smoothies.

The market employs a team of eight and a cleaning crew. Signs of success are showing, says Amanda Cleveland, who manages the market’s employees and owns the coffee bar. Along with a steady stream of local customers, the market is a frequent stop for cyclists, road rallies, church camp groups and a variety of tourists.

“Dufur Market is more than a cup of coffee or groceries,” Amanda says. “It’s a connection to the community.”

A Company Town

In many ways, Azure Standard is a quiet big business in a small town. Azure—named for a shade of blue associated with law, justice and honesty— is rooted in generations of Stelzer family farming. In the early 1970s, the Dufur farmers moved to a whole foods diet to improve their health and changed to organic farming methods.

As an outgrowth of chemical-free living, David Stelzer and his wife, Kimberly, founded Azure Standard in 1987. The family business has grown into a diversified enterprise with more than 12,000 products delivered to thousands of individuals, buying clubs, stores, restaurants and manufacturers.

Throughout the years, business was steady with occasional bumps, until the pandemic hit and business soared. Sales doubled between 2019 and 2020 and grew again in 2022.

“We saw exceptional growth in 2022,” David notes on the company website. “This continues the sharp upward trend in sales we’ve seen since March of 2020 when so many people started eating exclusively at home, not going to grocery stores and setting up emergency food storage.”

With little fanfare, Azure operates or owns much of downtown Dufur, including the gas station and hardware store. A former bank building serves as the Azure call center, and across the street from the Dufur Market—in what looks like an empty storefront—Azure operates a carob factory and is the first organic carob chip manufacturer in the United States.

That’s good news for Dufur, says Josiah Dean, who serves on the Dufur City Council. He and Claire Sierra own Historic Balch Hotel.

“We love Azure,” he says. “The new market is really upgrading Dufur. To have a health food store in town is a dream come true. We need people that have a passion and want to commit to the community.”