That mannequin horse that sits atop Valley Feed Store is a familiar sight but what’s inside the store is what really matters.
At 735 North Wenatchee Ave., Valley Feed Store has been serving the Wenatchee Valley community since 1986 with an array of livestock feed, equestrian needs and plenty of home and garden supplies.
The store has changed its inventory over the years to meet different markets, and even has changed locations more than once (although not since 1995), but whatever you are looking for, Bruce Thorn, owner of Valley Feed Store, is happy to help you find it.
Thorn, other than one 10-hour-a week-employee and his Labrador Sophie, is the sole employee of Valley Feed Store, and he has spent his whole life working in the industry.
Growing up in the Columbia Basin, Thorn was raised on a ranch and in a saddle. After attending Washington State University, where he earned a degree in agricultural economics and livestock production, Thorn became a partner in a feed lot in George. From there, he owned and operated R&R Meats out of Ephrata. And after 20 years of successful business in Ephrata, Thorn moved to Wenatchee in 1995 with his wife and took ownership of Valley Feed Store.
And when asked why Wenatchee, Thorn had his simple, yet all-encompassing answer ready.
“We just liked Wenatchee.”
Valley Feed Store, under the careful watch of Thorn, has moved a lot of different products off the shelves over the years. And to this day, a wide variety of gardening, livestock feed, tractor equipment, pet supplies and equestrian products can be found in the store.
And whether you are looking for Earth Nut soil amendment, horse saddles or the most delicious-looking dog treats you’ll ever see, chances are you’ll find something unique amongst the inventory at Valley Feed Store. And by liking their Facebook page (Valley Feed Store and Organics), it’s easy to keep up to date on all of the seasonal and special items that come to the store, including fresh heirloom tomatoes, live quails and chicks and seasonal seed and garden starters.
This variety and an ever-increasing amount of unique inventory, in a market saturated by big box stores and one-click online shopping, has enabled Thorn to keep the doors open at Valley Feed Store to pet owners, farmers and recreational horse riders alike.
“Since 1996, I’ve been tweaking the store around. I’m a little guy and I have to niche myself from the box stores. So I just do things they won’t do or aren’t capable of doing.”
And while this does include products like “Taste of the Wild” cat food and bee house building kits, perhaps the best example of this small store capability is its line of local, natural feed and gardening supplies.
“What we’ve done that I’m most pleased with is that all my livestock feed comes from the state of Washington. It’s not a national brand dealing in the commodities market on my shelves. We work really hard to bring in domestic inventory and it’s worked out really well.
Two of his largest livestock feed suppliers, Elenbaas and Scratch and Peck, come from Sumas and Bellingham, respectively.
“The big thing is getting back to nature, and not just consuming and focusing on easy, overly manufactured processed foods that can really have a detrimental effect on the quality of nutrients that both you and your animals are eating,” said Christin Clawson, business administrator for Scratch and Peck feed lines.
Scratch and Peck is a family-owned and operated feed mill that specializes in certified organic and verified non-GMO chicken, turkey, goat and pig feeds.
Thorn is one of few suppliers east of the mountains that carries these health-conscious product lines and he says people travel all the way from the Tri-Cities for these products.
“There is a huge movement in the livestock feed industry now, the organics are really in demand. People want to know what they’re eating and they don’t always trust what’s being sold in the bigger stores,” said Thorn.
And a Scratch and Peck sign hanging in Valley Feed Store may best describe the organic livestock feed movement — “You are what your food eats.”
This adage brings in a wide diversity of customers. From your old-fashioned farmers and ranch hands to your new-age horticulturalist and everyone who tends to a garden in between, Thorn doesn’t seem to have a problem making friends with just about anyone who walks through his door.
And if you’re like Shaye Elliott, that friendly service keeps you coming back for more.
“We go to Valley Feed Store because you get that personal experience that you just don’t get at the mega feed stores,” Elliott said. “Bruce knows your name when you walk in and knows what’s going on in your life. Shopping at Valley Feed Store is a great way to support this really small but wonderful, tight-knit agricultural community that we live in.”
Shaye has been shopping at Valley Feed Store for the last 15 years and goes there for supplies to run the Elliott Homestead where Shaye raises livestock, gardens and a family.
On the opposite side of the store, right next to the cowboy hats and cowboy hat molding station (one of few in the Valley), is another special line of inventory to Valley Feed Store — horse tack.
Valley Feed Store’s horse tack inventory includes stirrups, bridles, halters, reins, carpets, bits and most predominately displayed, saddles. Taking up an entire corner of the store, the saddle station is nearly its own entity. And behind the reins of this customizable service is Eric Sebring.
“Saddle makers today are very few and far between, and Eric is probably one of the best I have ever seen,” said Thorn. “He does very beautiful work and has good ideas when it comes to building saddles.”
And while much of that beautiful work speaks for itself on the Valley Feed Store floor, Sebring is happy to speak on behalf of his custom saddle work.
“There are three reasons to get a custom saddle — comfort for you, comfort for your horse and because it looks good. I’ve been making custom saddles for 27 years and I used to be a cowboy, so I know how everything works. I’m not here to sell you a custom saddle, but I’m there to help you get what you want. I enjoy the job, it’s an art, an extension of me,” said Sebring.
And whether it is the saddles, dog food or all the chicks that bring customers into Valley Feed Store, it’s equally apparent that it is the way Thorn treats these customers that keeps them coming back for more. Whether he has it in the store or not, Thorn will point you in the right direction to make sure you get what you need.
“You got to keep your ears to the ground and know how to help people, even if that means not making the sale. They’ll come back someday, knowing where they can find the best help,” Thorn said.