Being a small business owner is a tough job. That’s why we spotlight a different business each month to help you learn about unique businesses in your own back yard.
“You have to change with the times,” Rushcreek Feed & Supply owner Bob Pontious repeated. “You have to.”
This gentleman would know. He has weathered much change in his business, his town and the economy for over five decades. In 1961, Bob and four other Bremen area farmers partnered to purchase the Brown-Burnworth Company, which included office space and a mill that operated out of facilities constructed in the mid and late 1800’s. The five farmers organized and began operating what is now known as Rushcreek Feed & Supply, a mill that processes and creates seed and mix for the agricultural community.
The business has seen various incarnations of the ownership group but Bob, who just celebrated his 92nd birthday, has remained the only constant and is the sole owner to this day. His business has continuously evolved, installing new machinery, adopting new processes, and acquiring property to allow growth and efficiency, allowing them to stand out as a staple in rural small town living.
Bremen has seen much change during the last several decades and much of the change has resulted in loss. Bob said that several auto dealers have come and gone and the rail system that once rolled within ten feet of Rushcreek Feed’s building has disappeared. The cheese factory that existed years ago that was supplied by local dairy farms is long gone. The number of dairy farms in the area has dwindled from thirty or forty in the 1960’s and 70’s to just two. The number of local hog farms is now down to about ten. As more folks have moved toward green farming and the landscape of the agricultural industry changes, the needs of the customer have changed. “It used to be cattle, chickens, and pigs. Everything was operated by hand,” Manager Terry Bell said matter-of-factly. “But you have to meet the needs of your clientele. You really have to diversify.”
“We used to have folks bring in truckloads or trailers of whole ears of corn, which we’d unload by shovel or hand.” Terry explained. “Now there’s a hoist and dump pit. We used to bag feed by hand in 100 pound bags. That was it – that was all we had. But we’ve installed a bagging system for 50 pound bags.”
By streamlining seemingly simple processes and taking the “work smarter” approach, Terry says Rushcreek Feed and Supply has been able to expand their facilities, services and offerings. For example, a warehouse was constructed and a neighboring plot of land was purchased, which included several buildings that now serve as workshops and storage for equipment and inventory. The old mill was just redone this summer, and within the last five years they’ve added to their custom fertilization capabilities with a new truck and a new sprayer. Last summer, they installed seventy foot scales to better accommodate semis upon weighing in/out. Their secret Rushcreek Deer Plot Mix was created and is a hit for deer season, with customers from as far as Pennsylvania and New York ordering regularly. And recently, they became a licensed dealer for “The Stump,” a long-window weather resistant hunting blind by Banks Outdoors. As only one of a handful of dealers in the state, they actually keep them in stock so they are ready to go out the door upon purchase. Terry said that none of this would be possible without their expanded facilities. “We were running out of room.”
The expansion and rock-steady quality service are due in large part to a great group of people working for their team, Terry said. “We’ve got our locals (customers). But we’ve also got people from Franklin, Licking, Meigs, Athens, Muskingum Counties that are regulars.” Customers are getting quality products, but it’s the quality service from the twelve Rushcreek Feed & Supply employees that make the sustained success possible. “It works because we’ve got a great staff” Terry added.
If you’d like to visit Rushcreek Feed & Supply, they’re located at 103 S. Broad Street in Bremen, just across the parking lot from our Friendly Bremen Banking Center. They can be contacted at 740.569.4105 and can be found on Facebook and at their own website http://www.rushcreekfeed.com/.
See more images from our visit to Rushcreek Feed & Supply in the slideshow below.