Filling the warehouse: Douglas Feed succeeds, looks to grow
Douglas – What was a boarding kennel on the west side of Douglas when Corey and Tammy Larson purchased it has evolved over the last eight years into the very successful Douglas Feed store.
“We ran it as a kennel for three years, and after we attended the Rocky Mountain Horse Expo one year, one thing led to another and the next thing we knew we opened a Purina dealership and the feed store has grown way beyond anything we imagined,” says Tammy. “We closed the kennel, expanded the feed store, and here we are.”
Today Tammy runs the store with her daughter Jill and employee Missy Shoemaker, while her husband Corey works for the mines. She says the all-female crew raised some eyebrows at the outset.
Tammy says she grew up with parents who owned their own business, so she had watched them, and she had a background in accounting, but it was still nerve-wracking when she started her own business.
“It’s a big leap, but it’s so exceeded anything I’ve ever imagined. When we put in our first feed order we wondered how we’d ever fill the warehouse, and now we’re to the point where we need more room.”
Douglas Feed now offers three lines of feed – Purina, ADM and Hubbard and is open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. and on Saturdays from 8 a.m. to noon. Of starting out with Purina, Tammy says she began with companion animal products, but that it’s now grown to include commercial livestock producers.
“We have an awesome clientele, and our best advertisement comes from happy customers,” she notes. “Service is over and above everything – the coffee’s always on, and we keep a welcoming atmosphere.”
Of their service, Tammy says, “If we don’t have something, we’ll do whatever we can to get it. We’re willing to go the extra mile to do whatever we can for our customers.”
To add to that customer service, Tammy says each of the girls who works at the feed store has attended nutrition classes in St. Louis, Mo. through Purina.
“There’s new research all the time, and new products, uses and changes in feed technology,” says Tammy. “Nutritionally, there can be a lot of misconception, unless we stay up to date on it and know the changing markets.”
She says one of those changes that’s most recent is Purina’s Accuration/Cattle Limiter technology, which causes cattle to consume multiple small snacks daily of the supplement, which optimizes the flow of nutrients to the digestive system, thereby increasing forage intake, overall utilization and cattle performance.
“We utilize the resources of all the companies we deal with. They have cattle specialists for a reason – we contact the specialist, and we let them work for us,” she notes. “That’s their purpose, and we put them to use.”
Tammy says one of the biggest challenges to running a feed store is logistics.
“That includes trucking, freight and getting things here when we expect it,” she says.
Through the years as Douglas Feed, the store has expanded into clothing and supplies, including fencing and animal health, which now includes Pfizer’s Leaders’ Edge program. Of Hubbard Feed, which is the store’s latest feed line, Tammy says the biggest thing is researching the new labels so she can compare the different feeds and have the right answers when a customer asks about the difference.
“We spent one whole afternoon in a class where we learned the difference from tag to tag,” she says. “They might both say 12 percent protein, but what’s the source of the protein? Some protein you wouldn’t necessarily feed your cattle. There’s a lot more to it than reading the tag.”
“I never dreamed I’d end up in a class reading feed labels,” says Tammy. “But I love it.”
Of the energy industry’s increase in Converse County, she says it’s created more demand for their supply of fencing material, and has added some business.
Tammy says growing up in the community helped her business.
“I enjoy the people – my customers. I’ve gained so many friends from doing this, and they’re almost like extended family. I thoroughly enjoy all of my customers,” she says.
Of the dilemma of adding more room for the feed business, Tammy says she doesn’t know what they’ll do to expand.
“We’re out of room with land, and I don’t know if we’ll go to pallet racks, but we’re working on it to figure out the best course of action,” she notes. “We’ll definitely continue to grow with demand, we just have to figure out where and how.”
Tammy says she foresees Jill taking over the business.
“She is a people person and she likes dealing with the animal side of it,” she notes.
Of the Douglas Feed business in general, Tammy says, “What started out as my hobby business has grown way beyond anything we every expected.”
Christy Martinez is managing editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.