It all started with a hunter who got thirsty for a soda-pop driving home from a hunting trip. What’s a parched hunter to do on the drive back to Spokane from Lincoln County hunting grounds? If you’re Bob Uhler, you simply buy a store on State Route 25 and the first thing you do is put up a pop machine outside the store so no hunter driving that route has to go thirsty again.
This is how Bob Uhler , an avid goose hunter, became the owner of Fort Spokane Store and Restaurant back in 1988. With this business venture, Bob’s mission to quench the thirst of hunters expanded to a mission to meet all the needs of hunters, fishermen, boaters, campers, and especially, the locals. That’s why Fort Spokane Store carries everything from firewood to toilet paper and lotto tickets to life jackets. He calls his store “a mini-Walmart.” Located on Lake Roosevelt, the most popular items at the Fort Spokane Store are, of course, hunting and fishing licenses and boating permits.
If you’re hungry as well as thirsty, the Fort Spokane Restaurant offers hearty portions of food that is reported by customers to be good ol’ fashioned tasty, comfort food in a folksy atmosphere with friendly service.
Despite lack of formal training, Bob has a mind for business and a work ethic to be matched by few, if any. He credits working as a kid growing up in New Jersey, as well as his military service. He reminded me that you get “tons of schooling in the military.” Bob had a paper route when he was young and used to pick up washers and dryers that folks left out. He’d take them apart and managed to amass 30 or 40 motors for his father.
No wonder that after completing his Air Force service in 1972, Bob worked as a mechanic. He got out of mechanics as full-time work in part because of the new computer technology that he simply was not interested in. Never one for idle hands, Bob continues mechanic work on the side.
After his wife of 40 years passed away, Bob met his current wife, Peggy Ann, on FarmersOnly.com, an online dating website, well, for farmers only. Bob may not be a farmer, but he knew he wanted a farm girl for a wife. Peggy helps run the business and, according to Bob, outworks him. “She’s a farm girl from the westside. She throws hay bales better than I do!”
That’s saying something, because in the course of our interview I learned that Bob might be the hardest working man I’ve ever met. In addition to managing the business and working in the store and restaurant, he can and does do anything and everything else. Bob has built a house, moved 100,000 yards of dirt, and poured concrete. He hauls his own garbage and chops firewood before selling it to customers. At 70, he admits he gets a little sore after chopping the wood. Thanks to the spring break-up, which means the ground is thawing out and big trucks can’t drive on some roads, Bob even hauls his own garbage. And because of COVID, Bob is also driving to Spokane to stock his store. Not only did he suffer the losses from being closed for three months, but he also got cut off from deliveries of his inventory.
Bob also has a head for legal matters. He took the state to court three times because “if you’re in the right, you gotta fight for your rights.” I asked if he won the cases. Silly question. “Course I did!” Bob proudly proclaimed.
While Bob grew up in New Jersey, Bob loves the countryside and loves the community in Lincoln County. He has an admiration for “the country folk” for their independence and self-reliance. He has no interest in the “hubbub” of city life or living in a “concrete jungle.”
“If I can’t pee in my yard, I don’t want to live there,” Bob tells me emphatically. (He was concerned about me including this confession here because he didn’t want to offend anyone, but after I begged for his permission, he agreed. I was pretty sure readers could relate.)
Bob’s greatest joy, next to goose hunting, is taking care of customers. “It’s nice to be able to service their needs.”
Nothing makes him happier than when a customer comes in and asks, “Do you have _?” and he can answer “Yep! It’s right here!”
As much as Bob has loved his 33-year run as the owner of Fort Spokane Store & Restaurant, he’s made the big decision to spend his time differently. The whole kit n kaboodle is up for sale. That’s nine acres including the store, restaurant, house and surrounding land. All it takes is caring about serving customers as much as Bob does, and maybe sharing the desire to be able to pee in your yard.
I asked what he plans to do with his time after he sells the business. His tone as he answered made me realize I’d asked another silly question: “Goose hunting!”
Of course. And hopefully the new owners keep a pop machine outside for thirsty hunters.
For more information about Fort Spokane Store and Restaurant visit their website at www.fortspokanestore.com or go visit and have a chat with Bob. You’ll be glad you did!