Tradition of Service
Winco Farm & Home Center puts customers first
Ryan Anderson can remember playing on sacks of feed at his family’s business when he was a kid. It’s a vivid image he carries to keep track of Winco Farm & Home Center’s shift from a farm store into a full-blown hardware and lumber company that could rival any of the country’s big box home improvement stores.
Today, Ryan is the fourth generation of his family to own and operate businesses in Winfield, a Scott County town with a population of about 1,000 people. It all started with his great-grandfather, who started a lumber company in the town more than 100 years ago.
Changing With the Times
As the years went on, the lumber business eventually morphed into Winfield Grocery, which Ryan’s grandmother, Beulah Murphy, ran for years. “Her grocery store was the hub of this community,” Ryan says. “During World War II, she would take phone calls for people who’d lost family members in the war. It was one of the few places with a telephone.”
The grocery store lived on for decades, but it eventually grew into a new business, Winco Farm & Supply. Ryan’s father, Zane Anderson, officially founded the farm and supply store in 1975 with his two brothers. In the mid-80s, the business shifted into what it is today — a lumber and building supply store.
Big Store, Small Town
Ryan believes it’s fair to say his family paid attention to the community’s needs over the years and pivoted their store’s focus to meet those needs. Today, the store features a 8,000-square-foot showroom with about 6 acres of surrounding land, which holds lumber, roofing products, siding and much more. The store also sells everything from Case pocket knives, coolers and power tools to insulation, drywall, doors and faucets.
Despite the pressure from online retailers and large chain hardware stores, Winco has managed to stay competitive. But it’s not always easy. “That’s tricky in and of itself because we’re in a small community and isolated,” Ryan says. “We’re about 50 to 60 miles both ways from Lowe’s and Home Depot, which probably helps and probably hurts, depending on the circumstances.”
But the family’s hard work and solid business sense go a long way in drawing in customers. With a staff of about nine people and a willingness to take the time to hunt down supplies, Winco stays on top of its customers’ needs. “We pride ourselves on our service to our customers, and we have very competitive pricing, as well,” Ryan says. “So, all in all, it’s not as hard to compete against the big guys when you have good service and good prices. We do both of those things rather well for being as small as we are.”
Ryan spends much of his time on the phone with lumber brokers, but he’s also there to greet customers. “I think that’s one of the big ways we’re different from the big chain stores,” he says.
Winco also keeps its money in the community. “The people who do business with me are neighbors and friends,” he says. “Small businesses made and built this country, and they continue to make it run today. We give back a lot, and we buy from local businesses where we can. It’s reciprocal. Our deposits aren’t being shipped to Arkansas or somewhere like that at the end of the day.”
There are other challenges, too, he says. Online shopping has hit all brick-and-mortar stores hard, and Winco is no exception. “People can buy power tools for almost the cost of what I can buy them for,” Ryan says. “Even Lowe’s and Home Depot don’t sell nearly the amount of power tools they once did.”
The internet has been a blessing, too, however. Ryan uses Highland Telephone’s high-speed, reliable fiber internet service to order most of the store’s products, which gives him an edge over other stores with slower speeds. He’s also seen how much more educated consumers are about the different products and tools. “That’s a positive,” he says.
But for all the problems owning a small business can bring, Ryan knows it’s an important job. He realizes local shops fill a need that’s greater than a store alone. Local stores create jobs, bring money to the community, and — like his grandmother’s grocery store — are places where people can gather to catch up or ask questions. “Pretty much everybody knows we’re here,” he says.
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