written by Brandi Nichols | photo by Joni Schrantz
Bill Stoller never pictured himself settling down in his hometown of Dayton, Oregon, but an interest in wine and a passion for farming brought the multimillion dollar business owner back to his roots. “You can take the boy out of the country,” Stoller says, “but you can’t take the country out of the boy.”
With its rolling hills and rocky soil, the family property couldn’t have been more ideal for a world-class vineyard. The southeastern facing slopes, volcanic soils and elevation band of 300 to 650 feet could not be overlooked as a premier site for wine grape harvesting.
Stoller Vineyards, in the Dundee Hills outside of Portland, had previously served as the Stoller family’s turkey farm where Stoller himself learned the value of hard work and honest living.
“In the early 1920s, the pastor of my grandmother’s church was moving and had a male turkey for sale,” Stoller recounts. “He asked the church if anybody would volunteer to buy his turkey and my grandmother raised her hand. Ever since that day, my family has been involved in the turkey and farming business.”
Stoller, along with his wife, Cathy, followed in his family’s footsteps and bought the nearly 400-acre turkey farm in 1993—about fifty years after his father and uncle had bought it. The Stollers were already co-owners of Chehalem, a winery in Newberg, which brought them crucial vineyard experience.
With 188 acres planted, Stoller Vineyards offers delicious Pinot noirs and Chardonnays, as well as a stunning panorama. “When you drive up, vineyards envelop you,” observes Melissa Burr, Stoller Vineyards wine maker. “You’re honestly surrounded by beauty.”
“The location is state of the art,” Burr says. “There is an oasis of hills that are southeast facing, which prevents frost and allows for perfect exposure. The climate is also warm enough to help vines chug along at a faster pace than most.”
Of course state-of-the-art facilities don’t come cheap. Before venturing into the winery business, Stoller in 1983 co-founded Express Employment Professionals (EEP), a temporary staffing agency with more than 600 offices across the globe—twenty-four of those owned and operated by Stoller within the United States. “Our purpose of Express Employment Professionals is to be passionate about helping people—helping associates find great places to work and helping companies get great people,” says Kirk Nelson, Stoller Vineyards and EEP profit coach.
In 1974, Stoller graduated from Pacific University in Forest Grove with a bachelor’s degree in business and economics. Following this, the graduate, full of economic insight and motivation to succeed, landed himself a job as a consultant trainee for Acme Personnel Services, an employment agency in Portland.
Years later, after holding several managerial positions, Stoller seized the opportunity to start his own offshoot. “Acme Personnel Services had financial problems in 1982, so they sold their corporate offices to their managers, and shortly thereafter dissolved,” says Stoller. “Three of us from that company co-founded Express in May of 1983, and the rest is history.” Stoller and his two partners focused on temporary help instead of permanent. “When we got into Express, we saw that temporary help was going to be the future—a better type of business,” says Stoller.
Though both Stoller Vineyards and EEP differ significantly, Stoller recognizes a common theme— people. “I’m in the people business helping people find work, and I’m in the winery business bringing people together.” At the end of the day, Stoller’s work reflects his motivation to serve others, whether it be worldclass wine or employment opportunities.
“Success is not measured in material things,” he says. “It’s measured in how you help other people, how they gain from what you’re doing and the satisfaction you get from working.”