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The Office Supply Co. dba Missoula’s Office City of Missoula has been recognized for its longevity as a State Farm Family Business Award winner in the Old Business category. The award is among several presented annually to outstanding family businesses in the state by the MSU Jake Jabs College of Business and Entrepreneurship.

The Office Supply Co. was founded in 1916 by Joseph M. Dixon, who became Governor of the State of Montana in 1920. At that time the business was purchased by Claude Elder, and it remains in his family today.

Elder prospered for over four decades by working hard and even overcoming a fire that destroyed the business.

His daughter, Catherine, and her husband, Blaine Hughes, ran the business successfully until they divorced in 1975. Catherine’s son, Richard, stepped into the business after graduating from the University of Montana in business.

The business came close to closing as Claude left the building to his other daughter, Patricia, who put the building up for sale. Richard and Catherine were able to scrape enough money together for a down payment in 1979 to avoid shutting their doors.

Richard met his wife, JoAnn in the business in 1979. She worked hard in the store, even when having their two children in 1980 and 1982. The store served as a daycare for the children to save money. Richard worked nights and weekends to make sure things got done and the shelves were stocked.

Richard and JoAnn were able to buy the business from Catherine and continued to work long hard hours to grow the business into what it is today.

By hiring the right people, taking care of customers and automating the business, they have been able to compete and stay in business. All the profits went back into the business for new inventory and improvements.

The current 20 employees have over 300 years combined experience.

As they transition to the next generation, their son, Brian, who has been working full time since 2006, has brought the business to the next level with his business acumen. He is a graduate in business from the University of Montana.

Their daughter Shannon and her husband, Travis, also have roles in the company. They are also U of M business graduates.

With both Brian, Shannon and their spouses, now parents themselves, history just might repeat itself with a fifth generation family member in the business. (And, yes, they are still a daycare provider.)