According to Webster, the definition of salvage is “the saving or rescuing of possessions in danger of being lost.” Gerri Johnson, who owns and manages Farm Salvation with her husband Randy, seems to have found her calling in salvaging and sharing items in danger of being lost. Perhaps more importantly, Gerri is salvaging and sharing values that in these days, indeed seem to be in danger of being lost.
One of these values that stands out immediately is respect and honor for history. When Gerri was describing Farm Salvation, which is a vintage store in Medical Lake, I could hear the love in her voice as she explained about honoring the story behind the items sold at Farm Salvation. This theme of honor and respect for history goes much deeper than Farm Salvation’s vintage treasures. Gerri had been in awe of a certain historical building in Medical Lake for decades. She used the word “attracted” to describe her feelings for it, almost like a love interest. Said building is a 1900s original Medical Lake federal bank, now a historical landmark. It’s almost like she had some sixth sense that one day, after renting a small space in the building, she would come to own this 2000 square foot building she had admired for so long, like eventually marrying the one you felt “love at first sight.”
Gerri says her husband Randy is also “nostalgic.” He’s contributed to Gerri’s calling because he loves saving old items from his family’s farm, which has been in the family since 1932. Hence the name, Farm Salvation. The barn on the farm, which dates back to the 1890s, has offered up items to be salvaged, including a ladder that is over 100 years old.
Randy’s ties to the family farm are especially binding. When Randy was 14, his father died leaving him with the sole responsibility of managing the farm while taking care of his mother and aunt. Proving there’s nothing like life experience and hard work to prepare for future success, Gerri credits Randy’s early experience with running the farm for teaching him the skills needed to be a successful small business owner.
Gerri’s upbringing and early life experiences provided the same preparation. Because her parents were small business owners, Gerri says she and her sister “grew up in business.” By the time she was 10 years old Gerri was trained in customer service skills like phone etiquette and was involved in trade shows providing perfect training and instilling some of those values that lead to success. Gerri also credits being raised in a military family for being ingrained with high standards and high expectations.
Gerri’s stepfather was based in Fairchild and completed two tours of duty in Vietnam. She is proud to have honored his legacy and support military families by bringing the Vietnam Traveling Memorial Wall to the Medical Lake community. This was just one of many ways Gerri supports the Medical Lake community as president of Re*Imagine Medical Lake, “a citizen driven organization founded by community members with a desire to create a vibrant, local community. In this role, with the “incredible board of directors,” Gerri supports local business and empowers the community in many ways, but she is especially proud of bringing the traveling wall to the community. “It was healing,” she explains. “It is the wall that heals.”
At a time when communities have suffered due to the COVID pandemic, Gerri also brings healing in other ways. She says that customers who walk through the doors of her business can feel friendship and peace. Gerri contrasts her small business with the big businesses like Amazon who have profited so much from the pandemic, which she says bothers her deeply. “Customer service is growing less common these days. I personally greet everyone who comes through the door. I offer friendship. You can get whatever product you want from Amazon, but you can’t get friendship.”
As for her business suffering from the COVID pandemic, Gerri shows that she and her husband have grit, perseverance, and a can-do attitude. As difficult as COVID has been for businesses, Gerri explains that she and her husband have experienced so many ups and downs, there was no question they would get through this challenge as well. Whether it was mad-cow disease or the market crash of the 90s that threatened to take away everything, they always managed to get through. “You have to have faith, hope, and trust, and hold on to each other. You have to find things to ground you.” She admits that she and Randy sometimes just had to look into each other’s eyes and say, “we can do this.” That makes sense considering Gerri and Randy spent their first date together bucking bales of hay.
The Johnsons are also proud of the three children they’ve raised together and their nine grandchildren. Their middle son is even carrying on the family farm tradition and is now running the farm with his wife and “doing an amazing job.” Gerri speaks fondly of her son’s wife who, at the age of 11 or 12, was in Gerri’s 4-H club. Gerri even keeps a photo from this time on her refrigerator in which her daughter-in-law is holding a lamb.
Family is obviously another one the Johnson’s values. Gerri shared exciting news of how Roam Roasters Coffee House is soon coming to their building with their own family coffee blend. The Five Brothers Blend Coffee blend is named for her father-in-law and his four brothers.
While it can’t hurt to be a Johnson family member, Gerri is passionate about supporting all small local businesses and features 10 other female business owners inside her business. “I love empowering others,” she explains.
For more information about how Gerri’s painting hobby and her husband’s support led to the inception of Farm Salvation, visit their website at www.farmsalvation.com. Better yet, visit Farm Salvation in person and experience Gerri’s offer of friendship in person.