Agri Leader

Good ol' days alive and well at feed store

When you step into Bryan Farm Supply in Arcadia, it feels a little bit like stepping into the past. Antique metal farm implements hang from the ceiling. Customers sit on bags of feed or at a round table between the office and the cash counter just to chat. The business doesn't have an email address, and co-owner Scott Bryan doesn't have a smartphone. But this old-time, homey feel is the way he and his customers like it.

"I'm a leftover," stated Bryan, who owns the business with his brother Mike. He said he's known many of their customers since he began working at the store in 1972, when he was in high school and the farm supply operation was owned by the Mizell family. Very few customers just come in for what they need and leave, he explained. Instead, they like to stay and socialize. "That's why the table's here," he said.

Just like it did in days past, the store sells all types of feed, fertilizer, garden supplies, fence wire, posts, and farm equipment like water troughs and feed bunks. This time of year, there are chicks, too. It's "a little bit of everything," Bryan said.

But things aren't exactly the way they used to be. Since taking over the business, the Bryan brothers became the only satellite location for the sale of Chemical Containers equipment for citrus spraying. Mike handles the inventory, which includes parts for sprayers, parts for pumps and other items geared for a citrus industry that has had to rely more and more on chemical controls to counter the ongoing threat of citrus greening disease.

Scott has also branched into the molasses business, providing molasses made from Florida sugarcane as a cattle feed additive to help encourage the animals' appetites. He drives his truck throughout DeSoto County delivering the material.

But his customers won't let him make too many changes to their favorite farm supply stop. After Hurricane Charley, Scott said they made a plan to do a small remodel, moving the cash register from its current location to a different one. "Three or four oldtimers told me to leave it like it was. What the heck, that's what we've done," said Scott.

And since he's only 56 years old, it wouldn't be fair to call Scott a relic, but relics are a bit of a hobby of his. Besides the collection of antique farm equipment, signs and implements that give the store its classic feel, he also has a hobby of hunting and collecting old Indian arrowheads, a bag of which he keeps in the store.

While he enjoys hunting and fishing, Scott said, "I'd rather hunt arrowheads." Through word of mouth he scopes out the best places to unearth the artifacts. He's read up quite a bit on the Seminole Indians of the area, although he's not sure if the 40 arrowheads, hatchet heads and other items he's discovered can be linked to that particular tribe. A local expert believes one of Scott's favorite sites was a "chipping station" where the weapons were fashioned by hand.

The best time to find these treasures is "on plowed ground after a rain," Scott said. Near rivers is also a good place to look, since that's how the native Americans would have travelled.

Besides taking care of customers and hunting arrowheads, Scott also enjoys his Wednesdays off, when he takes care of his 2-year-old grandson, Blaine. He often takes the toddler to see the family's cattle or brings him along on a repair job, although "he gets his play time," the proud grandfather assured.

Other family members in the business include Scott's wife Molly, who helps handle the books, and their son Bradlee, who orders veterinary supplies, gardening supplies and more. And while Scott doesn't have a web page or a Facebook presence, he's not totally opposed to the idea. "I know I'm missing out on a lot," he stated. He's talked to the more tech savvy family members and employees about moving the business into the 21st century.

"It's something they'll do, not me, I can promise you that!" he laughed.