SAM TAGGART, OWNER
"Great Shop! – This is a great little store; very friendly/knowledgeable staff and they've got all the goods...we go there for bird/pet feed, but they have so much more. It's nice to patronize locally-owned places."
By Dana Tims | The Oregonian/OregonLive
By the time Sam Taggart graduated from high school, he saw his future as virtually anywhere but behind the counter of the landmark feed store his family had run in Aloha for more than two decades.
He'd practically grown up at Aloha Feed Garden and Pet, after all, stocking shelves after school and often finding shelter in one of the store's "doggie igloos" to polish off his homework.
"Buying the store was never really an option for me," Taggart said. "I needed to get out into the world and make a life for myself."
Now, with two U.S. Army infantry tours of Iraq and Afghanistan behind him, an admittedly more "grown up" Taggart is back behind the counter as owner of one of the area's last family-run feed stores.
And far from feeling daunted by competition from much larger, corporate-owned feed outfits, Taggart said the business is thriving as specialty gardeners and animal owners seek out products such as the organic, GMO-free feeds the store has specialized in for years.
"There's a big movement in organic feeds going on right now," said Taggart, who lives in Forest Grove with his wife, Cali, and their three young children. "It's actually a very good time for us."
The store is also popular with gardeners, who can find the type of one-pound bags of particular soil amendments not generally available at larger outlets.
The rural-tinged surroundings that the store had when Max and Kathleen Taggart bought it in 1994 are long gone. The area's population has more than doubled since then and urban trappings, including traffic-clogged Tualatin-Valley Highway nearby, are everywhere.
But the same focus on customer service that the older Taggart established as the store's trademark continues to generate repeat business and set the place apart from much larger competitors.
"It's very cool that this place is still such a prominent part of the community," said customer Sean McKee, 36, a Beaverton resident who stopped by to pick up some rabbit food recently. "To be honest, I go out of my way to shop here."
Sam Taggart makes it a point to personally carry out every large bag of feed or bale of straw.
"I've tied these big bales to the tops of every kind of car you can imagine," he said. "If we can get it up there, we'll definitely do it."
"...I fully expect to be here for years to come," Aloha feed store owner Sam Taggart said.
Taggart said that a solid majority of the customers today are looking to buy the GMO-free feed that's sold for chickens. It's an observation backed by his father, whose grain supplier recently told him that two-thirds of the business these days is poultry-related.
"We get a lot of horse people, too," Sam Taggart said. "They provide a very solid piece of our business."
Taggart credits much of his ability to buy the store to the various veterans' benefits he has received since ending his stint as an infantryman in the U.S. Army's 4th Infantry Division.
First, the GI Bill enabled him to enroll in the retail management program at Portland Community College's Rock Creek Campus. Then, a federal Small Business Association loan geared toward vets provided the money to buy the store and enable his dad to retire.
"I know a lot of veterans who just haven't taken advantage of the opportunities that are available to them," Taggart said. "I did, and it's really helped."
The Army, he added, provided just the sort of growing up experience he needed to step into the role as a fledgling small-business owner.
"I always knew, in the back of my mind, that it was a fall back for me," Taggart said. "But once our twin daughters were born, then our son, I figured it was time for me to get serious."
Added his father, with a laugh, "You might say he kind of grew up in the Army. It's worked out well for everyone."
Looking ahead, Taggart has no plans to significantly change the store's product line or overall direction.
"Still just sort of getting my feet wet here," he said. "But I fully expect to be here for years to come."
-- Dana Tims