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1/9/2003

Pass the feed bag

Katharine Alden
Daily Times-Call

LONGMONT — The Groves family, which has raised every ani-mal “from rats to horses,” now welcomes local pets into their flock as the new owners of Diagonal Feed and Supply at 1240 Ken Pratt Blvd.“We want to make it a kind of meeting place for people who want to learn about animals,” said Carrie Groves, standing in the store she and her husband, Dave, bought one Friday in November.

A 17.5-hour remodeling marathon ensued the following Sunday, with the Groveses adding lights and rearranging stock.

Prominently displayed pet presents from soft, pink flying discs shaped like pigs to homemade dog-treat kits welcome customers who include pets on their shopping lists.

While the Groveses have added items such as domestic and wild bird feed and premium pet foods such as Canidae to their stock, Carrie wants customers to know they are more than a feed store.

“We want to be involved in the community,” Carrie said. “We want to be involved in 4-H. We want to offer clinics in the spring and we have a community bulletin board.”

Dave and Carrie always have been self-employed business owners, but this store represents several firsts for them.

“We’re new to retail, and we’re new to the feed and supply business,” Dave said between customers. “Our daughter was a manager at a feed and supply store for two years. That’s why we had the courage to do this.”

The couple sold hand-crafted jewelry for 20 years and ran a commercial embroidery business in Missouri for four years before moving to Fort Collins in August of last year.

“We were looking for something we thought we’d enjoy doing,” Carrie said, “but it’s damned hard work.”

Knowing what to keep in stock has been a challenge, but they view their customer-service ethics from past experience as the most crucial asset they bring to the new venture.

“We’re used to bending over backwards. We can get (customers) what they want, even if we don’t regularly carry it,” said Carrie, contrasting her family business with larger chains. “I’m going to treat my $10 feed customers the same as a corporate customer.”

Operating the feed and supply store is also the first time son Dan and daughter Jessica will take an consistent role in the family business.

Both children will work in the store part-time since Jessica, 22, is earning a degree in equine science from Colorado State University and 20-year-old Dan’s first love is music.

“Because you know each other so well, there’s a lot you don’t have to explain,” Carrie said of working with her family. “You can be a lot kinder and a lot more direct.”

Streams of afternoon sunshine and jingling bells announce the arrival of a mother and daughter running errands.

“Now you haven’t been in since they rearranged. Doesn’t it look great?” customer Rachael Najera said to her daughter Lindsey.

Before too long, the Najeras’ dog, a young black chow named Luther, is allowed in the store for a treat. Overwhelmed by smells of food and other animals, Luther is pulling 13-year-old Lindsey on the leash.

Carrie and Dave each take a turn cuddling the pup.

“This is the best part of the job,” Dave said.

Katharine Alden can be reached at 303-776-2244, Ext. 389, or by e-mail to kalden@times-call.com.