Erin Woody took over Midwest Supply in 2018
In January 1984, Dale and Donna Wickstrom partnered with Dwayne and Nancy Cowan to open Midwest Ag Supply in Carthage, Mo. The store was originally located just down the road from where it is today.
When it first opened, they began with just the four of them working. Dale and Dwayne loaded the feed, and Donna and Nancy wrote the feed tickets and did the books.
In October 1989, they were informed they had one week to relocate. They immediately called about the old vacant Sears building down the road. On a Friday, they found out they could rent the building and were fully moved in by the following Monday.
Later, in the mid-1990s, the Cowans stepped aside and the Wickstroms continued the business until 2017 when their granddaughter Erin Woody moved back from Ozark, Mo., and began operating the store for about a year before she purchased it in 2018.
Erin is the youngest of their six grandchildren and is the only girl. She was born in Carthage and spent most Saturdays of her childhood at the store with her grandparents but had moved to Mount Vernon, Mo., with her family when she was 12, where she finished high school.
“I was always motivated as a kid because we had sheep and cattle growing up and in high school, I had a wonderful ag teacher, Randy Garrett, who really inspired me to keep pursing agriculture.”
Erin graduated from Missouri State University in 2014 with a degree in agricultural business, marketing and sales, and worked for MFA for four years as an assistant manager prior to purchasing the store.
When the store first opened in 1984, they were predominantly a Purina dealer until the early 2000s.
“We currently work with multiple feed companies at this time including MFA, ADM, and Purina,” Erin said. “I can get the best product at the best price for my customers, unlike a lot of corporate businesses where they are blanketed.
“We are a feed store, so our number one thing we offer is bagged feed for all livestock. We have cat and dog food, lawn and garden, and bulk garden seed, as well as a full line of farm supplies and Amish Christmas candy too.”
They also have vaccines for cattle, sheep, goats and pets.
Erin said customer service is their top priority.
“Since we are a small business, we are able to train each new hire individually so that when a customer walks to the counter, we can tell them protein content in different bags of feed, different feed rates, when to feed and what would work best for their livestock. That’s what truly sets us apart.”
Several of the employees at the store raise animals at their own farms so they are able to share first-hand experiences with customers.
“Having employees who have an ag background has benefited us tremendously because my employees know what customers are talking about when they come in and can guide them in the right direction,” Erin said.
The store does offer curbside delivery with all of their products to accommodate their customer’s needs.
“I am incredibly blessed with my employees. I know if I have to be gone, they are going to do the best thing for the company and treat it like their own. Not every store can feel that way, so I am very blessed in that aspect.”
“During the pandemic, we were blessed to be an essential business and were able to stay open. With that being said, we had our busiest spring we’ve ever had since the store opened 37 years ago.”
In the spring, they sell chickens, working closely with Cackle Hatchery in Lebanon, Mo. Last year, they sold more than 2,500 chickens. Customers are able to special order chickens and purchase from the store.
Dale and Donna continue to grow about 500 flats of tomato and pepper plants which are sold at the store from mid-March to mid-June. Erin said last year they sold-out an entire month early.
“Whenever the pandemic began, I felt so overwhelmed because with any aspect of the store, I have been able to call my grandfather and say, what did you do when feed prices went up or what did you do in the last drought,” Erin said. “This time I could not pick up the phone and say, what did you do in the last pandemic. It has been a learn-as, you-go scenario. Some days I feel like we are doing everything great and somedays I feel like we are doing everything wrong, and I think every business right now feels that way.
“We also have a diverse ethic population in Carthage, and they are absolutely wonderful to work with but sometimes there can be a language barrier. One time a customer came in and I was convinced they needed hog feed. After we both pulled out translator apps, we figured out that they were trying to kill their cockroaches and I was trying really hard to feed a pig. Since then, we’ve gotten better at understanding what they are looking for.”
Erin has made a few upgrades to the store the last couple years but some things never change.
“We still do the old-fashioned hand tickets,” she said. “When I purchased the business, I told my grandfather that I would not switch to computers until he was no longer able to be here, so I hope to stay with hand tickets as long as possible.”
Her grandfather still comes by and will occasionally work a few hours at the store.
The business has already grown significantly since Erin purchased it in 2018 and they are in the process of setting up a website to eventually offer online product orders with pick up at the store.
“I really want to strive that no matter how big we get. My employees will truly be able to continue to talk to each customer one on one,” she said.