Bonnie and Stephen live a few miles from the store. They share their home with their two dogs Josie and Roscoe, two horses, 21 chickens and 65 goats.
1. When did you open the store?
2. When did you decide you wanted to open a feed store? Once you decided you were going to go forward, how long was it until the doors opened?
My husband Stephen was the one who originally thought we should open a feed store. He first brought it up in the spring of 2006. In December 2005 the Nolensville Feed Mill, where I was employed at the time, sold to a new owner. The new owners almost immediately revamped it into an antique store instead of keeping it a feed mill. When I would be out and about town, like at the grocery, I would run into customers asking where they could find certain products, anything from feed mixes to animal health products. I then would tell Stephen about all the conversations and questions. Clearly the need was there which led to Stephen suggesting we open our own store. Talk about Dreaming BIG!! We worked all spring and summer on finding a location. After several (SEVERAL) roadblocks, we ended up where we are now and were able to open in October 2006.
3. How did you decide what inventory to carry when you first opened?
When we first opened, our “Opening Inventory” was based on items and products that I was familiar with from working at the Nolensville Feed Mill and at Tractor Supply Company, and also from my notes I had my made from the grocery store conversations with customers.
I was employed by TSC for 4 years, and the Nolensville Feed Mill for 1 year. These two jobs got me through high school and college AND I found my hubby!! TSC is where Stephen worked in high school, too!!
4. What all did you need to have when the store opened aside from inventory? (as in skid steer, computer, etc?)
When we first opened we needed everything from inventory to office supplies. After several trips to Staples and Wal-Mart we had ourselves set up with a computer, QuickBooks, pens, paper, tape, staplers, chairs, stools, phones and a fax machine!! The desk that we use as a “counter” per say was my Grandpa’s! Our first large purchase was a forklift and after that came the pallet jack and feed dollies.
We also worked a lot on the building. The front door used to be a heavy black solid door with four locks on the front (not sure if any actually worked) and rust holes halfway up. We bought a glass “commercial” door and replaced the solid black door. We also painted the building, it was an ugly gray-green color, but is now a cute “barn-red” with white trim. A little bit of landscaping, some 80 sheets of plywood (painted crème colored) to cover the inside walls, and some red paint for the floor of the office, then we were good to go!
5. Do you use a special computer program to keep up with inventory and such or can you do everything in QuickBooks?
We have found that QuickBooks is sufficient for all we do, at least for now!
6. Purina was the original line of feed that you started with correct? How did you decide on Purina?
Yes, Purina was our original line of feed. We went with them for a few reasons. One, they are nationally known and already have great brand recognition. They have a wonderful line of products. In addition I was familiar with their line from working at the Nolensville Feed Mill as Purina was a main vendor there as well.
7. When did you start adding other major lines of feed?
Shortly after we opened we started adding other lines. As our business grew, companies began contacting us to see if we would be interested in pushing their products. On the other hand, we would also have customers asking for certain companies/products, so we would make a phone call to them and see if they were interested in us pushing their line. In five years we have gone from 3 vendors to easily over 20!
8. How many lines of feed do you carry now (can you list them)?
I’ll try: (Melissa here; I’ve bolded a few brands that are equine related, I may have missed some)
Ainsworth Nutrition (VF Complete/Enhance/Back to Basics)
Farmers’ Milling, Co.
Orijen Dog Feed
Standlee Hay Company
Triple Crown Nutrition
9. How do you decide when you want to add another line of feed? And how do you decide which products from that line to keep in stock?
Obviously we want to carry what sells so if there is a need or want for it, we do our best to try and get that product in. Unfortunately, due to a lack of space at our current location, some of those feeds/products are more considered Special Orders and do not necessarily have a regular home in the warehouse…yet!!
10. What do you feed the most of? Cows, horses, dogs, cats, chickens or . . . ?
Horses!! Though, cattle would be next with chickens and goats close behind!
11. How do you pick suppliers? For example there has to be lots of places to purchase shavings, or to buy alfalfa pellets and salt blocks, so how do you decide which ones to carry?
Quality, price and availability are some reasons why we purchase from certain suppliers. For others, they may be the only company who carries that line or product. I also like and look for a company that is friendly and offers helpful customer service!
12. How did you decide on the name Bonnie’s Barnyard (instead of say Stephen’s Barnyard)?
We prayed about it!! I really liked it because it was catchy and feminine but not too feminine. There were several names thrown out there but this one just seemed to fit best!
13. What feed advice do you find yourself giving most often in regards to feeding horses?
WEIGH your feed and hay!! (Jason is saying “right on” about weighing your feed/hay)
Follow tag directions!!
14. What are some of the most common questions you answer?
When will your new building be ready?
How much am I supposed to feed?
Which feed will work best for my horse…or show steer…or sheep…or goat?
What feed do I get again? (Melissa here, I think this common question is my favorite!)
15. What days/times of the week tend to be the busiest?
Saturdays are the busiest and are busy all day. Fridays and Mondays are also very busy but more so first thing in the mornings and when people are on their way home after work.
16. What has surprised you about being in the feed business?
Every day I am surprised! I am surprised by how far people drive to shop with us, we have 2 customers that come once a month from different parts of Alabama to pick up feed. I am also surprised how we can be a place to hang out and “shoot the breeze” for some. I am surprised how some just come by to get a lick on the cheek from Josie or Roscoe. I am surprised how some customers’ critters really DO eat better than they do!
17. How long does it take to unload a delivery of feed for the store, and how many days per week do you have feed and supplies being delivered to the store?
We usually have at least one truck every day, but Thursdays are usually the busiest averaging 4 deliveries…and sometimes they all pull up at once!
18. How do you decide what supplements and supplies to stock inside the retail store? What are your biggest sellers in there (and does it vary through the seasons like selling tons of flyspray in the summer for example)?
The seasons play a major role in the hot sellers! Yes, we do sell A LOT of fly sprays in the spring, summer and fall!! Flea and tick spot-ons like FrontLine Plus or Advantix tend to be pretty popular year-round, as well as de-wormers for all critters. We sell much more hay in the winter months, and much more feed (all kinds), too!
As far as supplements go, our shelves have filled over the years. Where we once only had a handful of supplements, we now have an array of them. From weight supplements to hoof supplements…from probiotics to vitamin supplements….and all in between! This is due in part to what the customer asks for and also if I hear about a product that I think our customers would have a need for.
19. Tell us about your two dogs. Do they come to the store all day every day?
Josie is a Blue Heeler/Jack Russell mix who just turned 5 and has quite the personality, She LOVES kids and tennis balls! Roscoe is a full blooded Blue Heeler who will be 3 in April and is my Love-Bug. They are our official greeters!! They are at the store with us the majority of the time, though they often take half-days and head home around lunch time, especially if it’s very hot or cold that day. Oh, and they also like to sleep in on Saturdays, so we just go ahead give them that day off!!
20. I know you have big plans for your new location. When do you hope to move?
We do have big plans and cannot wait to move. We are super excited about what is to come in the future, with the new store will come new opportunities and products!! We HOPE that we will be able to actually move later this spring, early summer…like April or May.
21. What did you know you wanted to have at your new location? Jason and I certainly had a list of Must-haves after living with our old location for several years.
Must Haves included central heat & air and a bathroom/running water!!! We will also have a separate office for paperwork and a break-room for our “Barnyard Boys!”
22. Has your vision of what you wanted the store to be changed now that you have been in business for a few years?
Our business does serve many horse owners, but I would have never dreamed that so many people would have chickens. It is like an addiction I suppose though, as I LOVE just watching our small flock scratch the ground and chase fireflies!
I would love for our store to be the “one place shop” for all of your barnyard needs, especially when it comes to animal health. Hopefully we will be one day!
23. What trends have you seen happen in the feed business and/or are there things that you anticipate happening in the feed business?
Horses: Low Starch
Cattle: Non-Medicated Feeds
Sheep: They really exist in Tennessee!
Goats: Dairy Goats
Chickens: All-Natural/Organic Feeds
Dogs & Cats: Grain Free
I do foresee more and more customers leaning towards a more natural approach to raising their critters, from the feeds to their living conditions (hence, free-range chickens)
24. Do you think you will ever take some time off? (I had to ask this question as I don’t think Stephen and Bonnie have missed one single day of work since the store opened. I think Jason and I work way too much but they make me feel like a lazy slug!!)
As far as a vacation goes, not for a while!! Though, I do hope to be able to take lunches this year!!
25. How do you manage to always be in a good mood? (Another question I had to ask. Bonnie and Stephen always have the same level of good humor and positive outlook every time you visit the store.)
It’s simple…I choose to treat people how I would like to be treated!!