The Ditters — People from Yakima’s past

April 22, 2010

Henry Ditter

Imagine renting a retail space for $50 a month.

That’s what pioneer retailer Henry Ditter did in 1888, deciding a store in North Yakima had more of a future than one in Yakima City, which later became Union Gap.

Strategically located next to one of the city’s oldest banks, First National, the dry goods store occupied the site now known as the Larson Building.

In 1893, Ditter handed the business — one of many rolled up on wheels, courtesy of the Northern Pacific Railroad — over to his two sons, Phil and Joe, who renamed it Ditter Brothers. Later they would build a brand new store at 209 E. Yakima Ave.

By all accounts, Phil and Joe Ditter were compassionate, religious men who cared as much about their community as they did about making a buck.

Staunch Catholics, the Ditters donated property in Moxee City for St. Joseph Church and later gave the church its main altar and a stained-glass window, which the brothers dedicated to their parents.

The Ditter Brothers float in the 1913 Apple Blossom Festivale parade.

They both learned to speak with Indians in their native tongue, which broadened their customer base.

The Ditter Brothers clothing store on East Yakima Avenue in the 1920s.

Like many leading businessmen of the day, the Ditters got involved in service clubs.

Phil was one of the founders of Associated Charities and became a charter member of Rotary.

Joe was one of the original Lions Club members and both belonged to the Elks as well as the Yakima Country Club.

The Ditters found time for fun. In 1908, they bought Franklin cars, the first air-cooled vehicles at the time. But since neither knew how to drive, they were chauffeured until they learned.

Bernadine Bittner, Phil Ditter’s daughter, recalled in 1975 that a big outing was a drive to the hill at the edge of town, at 16th and Yakima avenues.

“By the time we had driven to there and back, it was quite a day!”

— Leah Beth Ward

The Ditter Brothers store on East Yakima Avenue in North Yakima in about 1904. Ditter Brothers moved their business from Yakima City to North Yakima in 1885.

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