CASPER — The fresh, sweet smell of ground feed and the cool period signs emblazoned with ads for Purina, John Deere and Hubbard Phase Feeding go perfectly with the original, well-worn wood floors that date back to 1917.
The warehouse on the west side of downtown Casper is a throwback to when the local feed store was the business and social epicenter of the community.
Welcome to Noland Feeds, 268 Industrial Ave., the senior member of the Casper Chamber of Commerce.
“There’s a very hometown feel to the store,” said Jamie Haigler, who’s owned the store since 2018. “I have people come to the feed store just to meet up so they can exchange something. Or, they will leave something here and say, ‘Hey, she’s going to be here in a little while to get this, can I leave this with you?’”
The effort to keep that stopped-in-time atmosphere and personal service includes 300 or so charge accounts, a practice dating back to the beginning of the store 106 years ago.
Haigler said the business originated a few blocks south on Midwest Avenue with Oscar Noland. In the early 1950s, a fire burned the building to the ground. Noland bought the business’ current warehouse from Casper Feeds and later added the building next door to carry more animal supplies.
An original Casper Feeds sign hangs in the warehouse.
Noland sold the business to Neal and Mary Schlager, who owned it from 1972-1995. They sold it to their son, Tim, who in turn sold it to Haigler in 2018.
“The opportunity just came up,” Haigler said about her opportunity to take over the historic feed store. “Tim wanted to get out and I was a customer of the feed store. The opportunity presented itself and we took advantage of it. My husband and I were in an oil field business and he had sold it, so I jumped in full feet.”
The timing of the purchase before the pandemic turned out to be a good thing.
“It actually boosted my business. We were open because we were considered necessary,” she said. “It was a place for people to come and be normal and not have to be stuck. And it was springtime, and springtime here is also gardening and planting and is a huge time of year for all of us. We have vaccines for cows and feed. Springtime is a big part of my business.”
A Lot Of Inventory
Look around the aisles of the store and one can find horse halters, ropes, sheep shearing equipment, electric chicken waterers, muck boots, heated pet beds and much more.
“We have anything related to an animal, and it doesn’t matter what kind of animal it is. If we don’t have it, I can get it,” she said.
The store’s seed, Buffalo Brands, comes from Greeley, Colorado. It also sells a lot of fertilizer for ranches and lawns. The previous owner, Tim Schlager, also took soil samples from around Casper and created the store’s own specialized fertilizer to help grass grow on local lawns.
In the warehouse, 50- and 100-pound bags of feed are stacked high. The warehouse still has its original elevator to the basement, and in the back a machine to grind corn.
“I have overhead bins that hold a truckload or two of corn or any grain,” Haigler said. “We crack our own corn. We make our own blends of bird feed, we make a horse mix, and we make Noland layer for chickens.”
After buying the store, Haigler also had to learn about the vaccine needs of area ranchers. She said the ask every spring goes something like this: “Jamie, I need 1,000 head worth of this certain vaccine because it is branding season.”
She supplies the vaccine, ear tags and everything else that goes along with adding to the herd and keeping it healthy.
One doesn’t have to be a rancher with a large herd to find needed supplies. She has feed for mini-pigs, dogs, cats “or any animal under the sun.”
Her biggest challenge?
“After the pandemic — employees. We can’t find help,” she said. “And I don’t think I am the only one having (that) issue.”
Big Client Base
Store clients stretch throughout Natrona County to Riverton, Midwest and even south to Laramie.
Riverton rancher Keith Burgess, who runs 1,200 head of cattle, said his family has used Noland Feeds since before Haigler bought the store. He appreciates the personal service.
“Jamie gets to know you and your needs and then works hand-in-hand with you to supply those needs, whether it is for an ag operation or 4-H kids or something else,” he said. “If she doesn’t have the answers, she tries to find them and is a huge supporter of local 4-H kids.”
Haigler points to the personal relationships and service the store provides as a draw for her customers.
“I try not to stock things that box stores or chain stores would carry,” she said. “I keep things that I know would work, not just the popular items.”
The No. 1 item going out the door is feed, followed by all the items that deal with animal health.
She characterizes being the longest active member of the Casper Chamber of Commerce as an honor.
”We are not the oldest business in Casper, but being a member of the chamber is an honor,” she said. “We were recognized four years ago. I had no idea when I bought the business that we were.”
Six Years In And …
Any regrets about jumping into feed from the oil business?
“It is the best decision I ever made,” she said. “I love people and I get to deal with them all day long.”
Dale Killingbeck can be reached at email@example.com.