Oregon vineyard owner hopes to give life to economically troubled town
DAYTON, Ore. - As town folks say, Dayton is a tired town just off Highway 99 plagued by economic woes.
It lost its only grocery store last year and doesn't even have a gas station.
But a native businessman wants to bring the town back by tapping into its abundant wine country.
Twenty years ago, Bill Stoller bought land, which his family had once used as a turkey farm when he was growing up. It used to have more than 250,000 square feet of turkey facilities.
He thought the terrain was perfect for grapes.
"To be honest with you, it wasn't in my life plan to come back here," Stoller said. "But when the soil and the property came up for sale, that's what brought me back."
Two decades have passed since Stoller planted his first vine and turned the land into lush fields that span 190 acres. But, he said, there's a lot more work to do to give back to his hometown.
"Dayton itself was an area that was screaming for help - screaming for something to be done," he said.
Stoller's work has begun to pay off. Dayton business owner Kelly Haverkate said Stoller's vineyards have brought in new business.
"What it means to me is that people can stay here. Our kids can work here. We don't lose all of our students to cities away (from here)," Haverkate said. "That people can raise families here."
There's a long way to go, but Stoller believes patience will reap reward.
"As I've said, this was a 20-year journey and that's going to be a twenty-plus year journey, as well," he said. "In 20 years, it won't be completed, but we'll have a great start."