Small town meat markets, feed stores in high demand during pandemic

In times like these, many citizens have a new-found appreciation for many of the small family businesses who have continued to serve our communities during this pandemic—especially the meat markets and feed stores.  Many locals have planted a vegetable garden, began raising chickens for the first time in their lives or many years.

As one county commissioner wrote in the midst of the egg shortage, “People raising chickens are now elevated to celebrity status.”

Eggs, meat, and vegetables have become hot commodities.

“The beginning of all this was very hectic. We had new customers coming in all the time and sold more seed, feed, plants and chicks than we have in years,” stated David Mangold, who operates RJ Mangold Grain Co. alongside his dad Sylvan.

The local feed store in LaCoste has served the community for nearly 90 years. It was started by David’s grandfather, RJ Mangold, in 1932.

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As you can imagine, the company has weathered many storms in its day, and while the feed and seed side of the business kept them busy, the historic shutdowns greatly impacted the other side of the family business.

“On the other side of the business, we sell food corn to tortilla factories who sell it to schools across the state,” David Mangold said. “With all the restaurants and schools being closed, we saw our white corn sales go down by 75% of what we normally do. In the past 10 days, things have started picking back up. We are glad to see businesses re-opening.”

W.O.G. in Devine has been hopping busy too, selling about double the amount of baby chicks, vegetable plants, and even more fencing and gates.

“We’ve been busy, that’s for sure,” said manager John Jaworowski. “With things being shut down, a lot of people finally had more time to fix fences or re-fence their whole place.  We’ve also seen an influx of new faces coming in for feed, chicks, plants, fencing, all of the above. I’d say we have sold as much fencing and gates this past month as we do in almost a whole year’s time.”

Meat Markets

Braden Boehme at the LaCoste Meat Market saw sales increase dramatically as families rushed to stock their freezers.

“We were really, really busy at first, and then it died off some, and now it’s steady again,” Boehme said. “That first week I think we sold as much hamburger meat as we normally do in a couple month’s time.  We were especially busy when the big grocery stores started limiting customers to buying just a couple meats.”

Murphy’s Meat Market in Devine shared a similar story.  As Mr. Don Murphy stated—even in a pandemic–“People have gotta eat.”

“We’re getting customers from all over the place, San Antonio, Dallas, Laredo, all coming here to buy meat and stock up,” Murphy stated. “They are coming a long ways. We have even shipped an order to Colorado.”

“I’d say our sales have been up 60-70% since all this mess started. We usually have a couple slow days each week, but not anymore. Every day is a busy day now,” Murphy adds. “The price of meat has certainly gone up, but it’s starting to settle back down some.”

With many of the large chain grocery stores limiting customers to 2 meats during the peak, families were scrambling to find even a week’s worth of groceries, and our local meat markets were happy to help.

Our small towns are lucky to have so many great meat markets that provide such a high level of customer service, who are able and willing to package meat orders in vacuum sealed bags, in sizes personalized for our families.

“I hope when all this mess is over—all our new customers keep coming back,” Murphy said.

“We are fortunate that we are one of the essential businesses that got to stay open.  It hasn’t been easy of those who had to close down. It’s hard to pay bills if you can’t open your doors, so I’m glad to see them re-opening again.”

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More Small Family Businesses

Ahr’s Flower Shop, which has served the community for some 67 years, is also happy to see things opening up again.

“Business was slow for a little while, but then things started picking back up. We did have to close our lobby for over a month during the pandemic, and we are definitely excited to be able to open the doors again and continue serving our customers,” stated manager Samantha Stanfield.

Small convenience stores like Save-A-Dollar in LaCoste were grateful to have a drive-thru window.

“We closed the front door for about 3 weeks, but continued serving customers in our drive-thru,” stated the cashier at Save A Dollar, Alexandra Aguilar. “Business has been very steady here.”

The shortage of supplies like toilet paper will be something people will remember from this pandemic too. In fact, one local business, Calame Store in Devine reported that a lady drove all the way from Seguin after seeing that he had toilet paper in stock.

On a lighter note, word has it that the stay-home orders have enabled us all to get a lot more accomplished on the Honey-Do list.  We’ve been told that some of the local hardware stores have  even sold out of lumber at one point.