Local feed stores cater to the horse owner community in a way that most big box stores cannot. Whether it’s a familiar face wearing a smile that welcomes you or an employee’s willingness to help you with your needs, it is usually the small business owner that caters to the customer.
That is not always the case, though Tractor Supply Company is the exception to the chain stores’ rule. While TSC boasts over 1,800 stores nationwide, they have managed to keep the hometown store element alive and well.
Tractor Supply Company was founded in 1938 in Chicago, Illinois, by Charles Schmidt. Established initially in the Schmidt kitchen as a mail-order supply company for tractor supplies, by 1939, the company was so successful it became a brick and mortar store located in Minot, North Dakota. Now the company claims home in 49 states. My hometown TSC is located in Leesburg, Florida.
Recently we had a wheel and tire that needed replacement on a lawn tractor-trailer. My friend originally bought the trailer at another store, so of course, I went to the source. After an hour of waiting and no tire and being told to go online to check their website, I told them no, I would go across the street.
I wasn’t expecting to find the tire, as it seemed the brand was now obsolete. But as a last-ditch effort, I crossed the road to Tractor Supply Company.
As I wheeled my load into the store, Mitch, a TSC associate, called out in greeting as he always does, and asked me if I needed any help. Mitch is always ready and willing to assist, and when I told him what I needed, he led the way to the tire department.
When we passed the manager’s desk, I noticed Sam (manager) looking at the cart contents as we passed. I thought it was curiosity, but as we proceeded through the in-stock tire inventory, she rounded the corner and told Mitch he needed to look in a particular place in the back of the store. Said she was pretty sure there was a tire that matched and, as they no longer sold whatever it was initially intended for, to give it to me.
I thought I had misunderstood.
Five minutes later, Mitch came out with a matching wheel and tire and said, “Merry Christmas.”
I just stood there, speechless, which is pretty rare for me.
As I stood there, wrapping my head around what had just taken place, my whole day changed. What had started as a confusing and irritating day on many levels, the staff of TSC managed to make my world a better place. My shopping experience gave me a little more hope for the human experience.
It became less about the tire and more about a positive relationship. A relationship that feels like it has a real human element, rather than wait in line to pay the bill and leave. It reminded me of a time and place when the grocer, the baker, the candlestick maker were individuals doing business, rather than business by the masses for the masses.
While I have shopped at Tractor Supply for years, that realization established my loyalty as a customer and changed my perspective on what truly a community store is. I look for Mitch’s smiling face, talk to Terry about his competition adventures in Cutting and Reining and perhaps chat with Justin at the register. Sam is always gracious and takes her customer’s shopping experience seriously; you don’t have to beg for help loading your truck. (Or your Volkswagen.)
Tractor Supply Company also gives back to the communities in which they do business. Whether it is veterans or non-profit animal rescues, TSC is involved in making the world a better place. They are also working with other organizations to provide internet to economically and technically deprived rural areas. Without the internet, it is hard to compete with the rest of the world.
So the next time you decide to visit a hometown farm supply, check out Tractor Supply Company – the Leesburg, Florida store profiled here, or another of their 1,800 stores near you. When you do, know that your satisfaction is also management’s satisfaction in doing business.
Tell them HRL sent you!
We at HRL are always happy to support and promote small businesses, especially in the current climate of financial uncertainty. If you own – or have a favorite – feed store, get in touch! We’d love to profile them!