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Community Feature

Moline Family Business Rockin’ & Rollin’ since the ’80s

June 26, 2019


Tour of Mills Feed & Supply

Over the nearly 40 years that the Mills family has been in business, they’ve seen huge leaps in change to technology used in the feed supply industry, said Stephanie Mills-Bogdahn, second-generation operator of Mills Feed & Supply located in Moline, Kan.

When Mills Feed & Supply first became SKT customers in the early 2000s, they started with landline phone service, and most of their orders were done over the phone or face-to-face. Ten years ago, they didn’t accept debit and credit cards. Today, access to SKT High-Speed Internet has been key to growing their southeast Kansas business through online ordering of supplies, a point-of-sale system with debit and credit card processing for orders and retail sales, email to communicate with vendors and customers, and a Facebook page.

Mills Feed & Supply also uses their Internet connection to run an SKT-installed 8-camera, self-monitoring surveillance system. The system gives them peace of mind, helps protect their inventory and equipment, and gives them a break on their business’ insurance rates.

“We’re totally satisfied with the service SKT provides us,” Stephanie said. “Matt helped us install our security system and that was one of the best moves that we have ever made. I have mobile control of it on my phone so wherever I am, I can pull it up at any time. It saved us on insurance rates as a business to have a monitoring system like that in place, so we were super happy with that.”

In addition to Internet and Security services, the company has three business phone lines and a subscription to the SKT live TV streaming app. Nine times out of 10, she has a phone to her ear and a working phone line is of the utmost importance, Stephanie said. Her kids were raised in the store, and the SKT live TV streaming app helps keeps them occupied after school.

“We love doing business with SKT because they started as a small, local organization that found a product that they liked and believed in and went out and tried to make it work,” Stephanie said. “I work a lot with Lonnie Stieben of SKT through our Chamber of Commerce. He is always so good about finding resources, finding money, or donating. You guys as a company are putting back into the community just as we as a business are, and I respect that so very much about SKT.”

More Than a Feed Store: Creating a Gathering Place

Built upon a foundation of family, service, and integrity, Mills Feed & Supply serves customers for 60 miles in every direction from its location in Moline, Kan.

“No matter what – if you come in the door to buy a $6 little bag of kitty litter or if you are buying $6,000 worth of fencing material – your business is as important to us in a small transaction as it is in a big one,” Stephanie said. “We want you to feel welcome and comfortable when you come in the store.”

That philosophy is always evident at Mills Feed & Supply and she relates, “Recently, after a nice spring rain, we had people getting up to let older people sit down because I had probably 15 people standing around (none of them bought a thing), but they were all in here for two hours.” Stephanie’s talking about the little “coffee area” at Mills Feed & Supply, complete with rockers and a cozy gas fireplace. Its forerunner was a “Warm Morning” loud, clunker-of-a-stove that heated the original building – a massive, 100-year-old wooden structure (formerly a lumber yard) with knob-and-tube wiring, no hot water, and a toilet whose water would regularly freeze.

How It All Started

In 1980, Stephanie’s dad, Tom Mills, and a partner, Roger Patteson, began operating Moline Feed & Supply. In August of 1987, Tom bought the controlling interest in the business, operating it as Mills Feed & Supply until 2004, when he passed away in the middle of the night of a heart attack – at the young age of just 52.Tom’s kids all chipped in to operate the store in the wake of his death, but as the youngest of the three, Stephanie had the most flexibility to take on operations full-time.

“It was totally a God-thing, I think – me being in the right place at the right time,” she reflected. “I’ve always liked people. I love building relationships with people.”

Taking a Leap of Faith into Retail

When Stephanie took over, Mills Feed & Supply was basically about grinding, mixing, and delivering feed, with a very limited retail area. She began seeing new customers – especially younger, female purchaser traffic – and knew they needed to carry more products. Because they wanted to continue to serve the community but were so limited in what they could do in the old building, they decided to “bite the bullet” and build a new one. They purchased the property to the south, and still operating from the old store, built the new one during the spring and summer of 2008. It was time to grow – and grow they did! The Grand Opening was in November of 2008.

“Some people thought we were crazy,” Stephanie remembered, “but we had a lot of community support and backing, and they just embraced us. Here we are, 11 years later, still rockin’ and rollin’.”

Today, although their primary business is still feed – both bag and bulk, as well as bulk feed delivery, liquid feed (with delivery trucks), they also provide dry fertilizer and custom application, sell seed, chemical, and all kinds of farm and ranch supplies, animal health products, pet food and supplies, and have a large selection of lawn and garden products. They now carry apparel, footwear, gift items, home décor, and are big supporters of local/regional products such as honey, soaps on consignment, and some home business products. They carry all kinds of jewelry. In addition, they have food items including BBQ sauce, jam, jelly, pickles, okra, jerky, and candy.

“We’ve got a little bit of everything. Normally, if we’re asked for it more than three times, then I get it in and we start carrying it. That’s kind of our rule of thumb,” Stephanie said.

Christmas is a big season for their retail sales. Mills Feed & Supply hosts an annual holiday open house/customer appreciation event in late November or early December, aligning with deer season, which is big business in the area.

“We always see a ton of people at our holiday open house,” Stephanie said. “We’ve got a lot of out-of-state hunters who we see year, after year, after year … and they love to come in and see us during that time.”

But because Mills Feed & Supply carries such a variety of products, they really have several different busy seasons: Winter and cold weather bring the need for cattle feed; fertilizer needs hit a couple of times a year – early spring and early fall; their jeans, boots, and cowboy hats are sought after in preparation for county fairs and rodeos; summer is typically slower (as far as feed goes) because of the area’s abundant green grass, but that’s when “show feed” starts with 4-H and FFA kids, which programs Mills Feed & Supply does absolutely everything they can to help foster and grow. Then comes back-to-school specials … and before you know it, cattle feed time again.

A Community-Focused, Family-Owned Business

Family and giving back to the community are important to the Mills family. Not long after taking over the daily operations, Stephanie was introduced to a Purina cattle sales specialist, the man who would become her husband in 2006. Her husband, Joel, is originally from Fargo, Okla., but thankfully he saw in Moline what she saw and was willing to move, she says. The couple have two boys, Jaxson, 10, and Jayton, 8. Her mother, Wanda, is a beautician whose shop, “The Hair Mill,” is located within Mills Feed & Supply – by design, because it’s great having grandma close. Her brother and sister are great customers and drop in all the time. Her sister, Chelise, worked in the store for several years and raised her boys in the store too. Between the three siblings, they have six rowdy, fun-loving boys ranging in age from 4 to 13 years. This family unit is very close, very involved in the business, and Mills Feed & Supply is proud to be family-owned and operated. Their grandparents and large, extended family are from Moline. Raising their kids together in a place where people genuinely care about each other, and what happens to each other, is important to the Mills family – including instilling that sense of pride and responsibility for protecting this aspect of the little town of Moline. This is what they strive to do every day.

“Volunteering is in my blood,” Stephanie says. “My mom and dad were both very active in civic organizations and my mom served on the school board for years. As a family, we believe in the town of Moline, and believe very much in giving back to the community. We want to see our local economy and our local community thrive. We want people to know that their purchases and dollars are getting put right back into the community for good.”

“The sense of community that Moline has is one of my very favorite things,” Stephanie continues. “If you’ve ever been to our Crazy Days celebration, you can totally experience that.”

Stephanie has been president of the Chamber of Commerce for several years, and has a busy life – with two kids in school, 4-H, sports, etc. But she feels that volunteering is very important, adding, “No matter how small the role, you can always give of your time – even if you don’t have much. And in giving back, you don’t have to give thousands of dollars for something to go well.”

Whether you want to learn more about local volunteer opportunities through the Chamber, purchase feed and supplies, or browse the apparel, shoes, and more, visit Mills Feed & Supply at 119 S. Main Street in Moline or call them at (620) 647-3294. Follow them on Facebook and take a tour of the store with Stephanie in this Facebook live video.