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It’s not just chicken feed in Granite Bay

Former finance professionals grow feed, pet supply store
By: Scott Noble for the Press Tribune and Granite Bay View
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Craig Lyman and his wife, Dee Dee were at one time as far removed from owning a successful feed and pet supply business as a North Korean citizen is to Internet access. 

The Lymans were successful professionals within the financial and mortgage industry when the recession reared its ugly head in the latter part of the last decade.  Both had forged successful careers with Merrill Lynch when out of nowhere, corporate closed their office. 

Undaunted, Craig thought about his options and the one that stood out among the others was purchasing a business.  He and his family had moved to Oregon in 2007, but decided after a two year stay that it was time to return to Northern California and begin anew.

“I started looking for a business to buy and the only one in the area that caught my eye was Douglas Feed and Pet Supply,” he said. 

He set the wheels in motion to acquire the long-time Granite Bay store on Douglas Boulevard.  Although Lyman was well equipped to understand the financial aspects of business, his understanding of livestock and pet supplies was rather limited. Inventory was a bit of a challenge for him since the existing store had more than 6,000 items on the shelves as well as a diverse product line.

“Along with learning what things were and where they went, I also managed to learn the difference between straw and hay,” he said with a chuckle.

Once Craig and Dee Dee became acclimated to the different lines of feed and supplies, they set about expanding what was already a successful small business. 

According to Craig, the store had done very well over the years and through expansion and additional marketing, he intended to increase the bottom line.

“We decided to expand all of our lines in feed and tack and even added apparel to boot,” he said. 

The store now offers an array of feed for horses and cattle along with dog, cat, and bird food. And the shelves are stocked with high-quality organics.

Lyman says the farm-to-fork and home agriculture trends in the area have spiked the demand for chicken feed.

“People are not only growing their own vegetables and such, but they are also harvesting their own eggs as well,” he said. 

Craig has also invested in marketing the business, but like any savvy businessman, he was able to identify the needs he and his team could fulfill while effectively branding his business. 

He says many of his clientele are members of Future Farmers of America (FFA) and 4H.  The youth in these organizations raise fair animals and, according to Lyman, that can become quite expensive.

“I was told about kids dropping out of FFA because of the rising cost of feed and care for a fair animal and we decided to do something to help,” he said.

Since the cost of preparing an animal for show can exceed $3,000, the store owners decided to offer a discount for feed to area FFA and 4H members. The discount, he explained, puts their purchase price just a bit above his cost -- a small price to pay to keep youngsters involved in agriculture and animal welfare. 

Helping FFA and 4H members is just a small part of why they love the business, noted Dee Dee.

“It is about being a part of something special, which is getting to know our customers and their animals while giving back to this wonderful community that supports us,” she said. 

Another effort to support the community is their recently-acquired trailer outfitted to serve fresh kettle corn and lemonade, which they take to football games and other community events.

“I started out with a small kettle corn rig and set up shop at four Granite Bay High football games, which allowed us to raise $1,600 for the team,” he said.

The new trailer is equipped with a sound system and lighting.

Lyman said he no longer worries about finding new ways to get the business name out there since he has added community fundraising to his list of activities.

“I can buy an ad here and there, but the return on my investment with this trailer is priceless. We are a community-oriented business and we get to spend time giving back to a place we love and live while having a great time,” he said. 

The trailer has picked up quite a few sponsors in the business community as well, including Rabobank, N.A., which is the second largest agricultural bank in the country.

Scott Cisneros, vice president and community banking market manager, stepped up to supply 25,000 for the kettle corn.

Cisneros said getting out to community events is a perfect way to get to know clients (and potential clients) personally in a casual environment. 

“We are a relationship bank and it was such an ‘oh wow’ moment when I saw what Craig had done,” he said.  “What better way to get to meet your customers and relax with them than over a bag of kettle corn at a football game or other event,” he added.

While Craig is thankful to own a successful business, he recognizes there are more important things in life.

“The success of the business is nice, but being a part of this community while giving back is even better,” he said. 

For more information on products and services at Douglas Feed and Supply, visit douglasranchsupply.com or call 791-3202.