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2019 Young Retailer of the Year: TJ Colson

TJ ColsonTJ Colson

Director of Store Operations
Wilco Farm Stores
Oregon and Washington

I’m a big believer in taking time to fully train and support your employees. That’s how your business will reach a high level of performance.

After TJ Colson started working at Wilco Farm Stores in 2003, it didn’t take long for management to realize the astounding talent in their young employee. He started as a part-time warehouse employee in Wilco’s Tangent, Oregon, location. Five years later, at the age of 24, he had the opportunity to run that store, making him the company’s youngest store manager ever. By the end of the year, he had led the store to record sales. Just a few months later, he received a new challenge.

Wilco’s newly acquired store in Springfield, Oregon, wasn’t meeting expectations. Colson was asked to take over management of the underperforming store and move sales in a positive direction. He started working alongside his team of employees to improve morale and became involved with the community to restore his customers’ confidence in the business. Soon, his work paid off in increased sales.

With the Springfield location back on the path to growth, he next had the opportunity to open Wilco’s 15th location in his hometown of Corvallis. The new store started off strong and remains one of Wilco’s showcase locations, achieving numerous sales and customer traffic records.

In 2015, Colson had the opportunity to take on new responsibilities at Wilco. At 32 years old, he became the youngest district manager at the company. Then, in 2017, he was selected for a newly created position—director of store operations. Since then, he and his team have opened Wilco stores in Bremerton, Washington, and Redmond, Oregon.

As director of store operations, Colson provides direction to Wilco’s two district managers and 20 retail stores in Oregon and Washington. He oversees the company’s 17 pet grooming departments located in Wilco stores and manages 70 professional groomers. He’s also taken charge of Wilco’s outside sales division, which operates in conjunction with Purina Animal Nutrition. The division includes three outside sales specialists who focus on business-to-business sales to commercial farmers and ranchers.

While he has been dedicated to growing Wilco’s sales and adding locations, he has been equally passionate about making sure his employees have the education they need to succeed. Since 2015, Wilco and Colson have sent many management-level employees to NRHA’s Retail Management Certification Program.

Colson enjoys working with youth and is heavily involved in local 4-H Club and National FFA programs. Because of his skills in the livestock industry, he is a sought-after judge for livestock competitions. He and his wife Samantha are 4-H Cattle Club leaders and have helped many students raise cattle over the years. He’s also been instrumental in helping each organization raise funds through auctions.

About Jesse Carleton

Jesse Carleton
Jesse Carleton has visited independent hardware retailers, conducted original research on the industry and written extensively about the business of hardware retailing. Jesse has written for more than a dozen of NRHA’s contract publishing titles, all related to the hardware retailing industry. He also was instrumental in developing the Basic Training in Hardware Retailing courses now used by thousands of retailers across the country.

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