A visit with Jim and Sharon Van Woert
Thirty-five years at the helm of Olde World Trading Company ~ By Ben GetzFor Goodness Sake
35 years is a long run for any enterprise; a marriage, a career, and especially for a small business. The statistics were not quite as daunting four-decades ago, but they remain fairly consistent that only two out of ten new businesses survive their first year. With that being said, June 1st, 2019 marked the Thirty-Fifth anniversary of Jim and Sharon Van Woert at the helm of the Olde World Trading Company…and in two locations since 1984. Quite an accomplishment in any book.
In a recent interview with Venue Magazine, the effervescent Sharon Van Woert recalled with fondness their humble beginnings in the downtown Ephrata location. Jim and Sharon transplanted from Oregon and came to the Columbia Basin for Jim’s work with the Soil Conservation Service. Real ‘salt of the earth’ people by nature, the Van Woerts’ settled in and started raising their three children in our community, though Jim had smoldering within him a longstanding desire and dream of owning a retail business.
By chance or design, Jim and Sharon had become friends through their love of coin collecting with the owner of an established business, Western Collectors, and an opportunity to buy the business from him became too much to resist. Thus, the Van Woerts’ established their first ‘Olde World’ location setting their business model as eclectic gift shops specializing in unique gifts, jewelry, weapons, and coins; the stores truly must be seen to be appreciated! Often still mistakenly called a “pawn” shop, this is not the case, though they do a trade/loan business with firearms, coins, and jewelry, as well as appraisals of all the above.
In 1993 the Ephrata location was moved across the street to a much better building space to accommodate their growing business, and over the last 25 years as both Olde World shops have flourished Jim and Sharon have become increasingly more adept and well trained in their trade and craft, and they truly enjoy attending dealer and trade shows. Sharon was so fascinated with the gems, precious stones and jewelry aspect of the business she obtained her Gemologist degree to make certain they could provide skilled service as well as protect their interests.
In any business that buys and sells firearms, a close working relationship with local authorities as well as the B.A.T.F. is crucial. Sharon relates they have had almost zero issues over the decades due to their honesty and commitment to do everything by the rules and establishing a trustworthy relationship with law enforcement.
Being based in a small-town region like ours has helped them to get to know many locals, and to see their children grow up and take on roles in the business. Sons Eric and Aaron are mainstays at the Moses Lake counter and both are extremely knowledgeable and helpful in all aspects of the business. The boys have partnered with their parents since the beginning and were joined by Brennan who was added to the staff 13 years ago while still in high school. He has ‘grown-up’ in the business and is another valuable asset on the Olde World team.
It is refreshing to note that the Van Woerts’ legacy includes a strong Christian faith that has helped them make friends, serve customers, and has allowed them to change lives as they are ever willing to comfort, pray, or just visit with people they encounter to help them have a better day. Very active in their local church, they have volunteered and served in Nicaragua as well as both of their sons are in training for the ministry. While running the businesses, supporting their church, and enjoying a growing family leaves not much in the way of ‘spare’ time, Jim likes to ‘dip a line’ in the water and hopes to be doing more of that. Sharon in her downtime enjoys the art of scrapbooking, and together they love gathering and sharing memories in artistic displays.
Now at an interesting crossroad in their lives, looking forward and back, Sharon beams as she recalls all the blessings they have had in the all too quick passing of 35 years in the retail business in our tightknit communities. The course forward for Jim and Sharon points to changing freedoms and new opportunities to travel and serve as they move through the next few years. The rest of us will be anxious to see what God and the future has in store for the Van Woerts