Twenty-five years ago today Larry, Tim and Don Tuttle opened the doors to LTD Farm and Garden with seven employees and a drive to provide the best service possible for area farmers.
Today the business boasts 25 employees and has a second location, Clemmons Mill in Clemmons, but customers can still find the same small-town service the Tuttle’s dedicated themselves to when they first opened.
“We have established almost family relationships with some of our customers,” said store manager Steve Preston, who has been with the company since it opened its doors. “One of the great blessings of this business is the friendships we have developed with our customers.”
Tim Tuttle had the idea for starting a store as he saw a need in the community to assist farmers with agricultural supplies. He figured opening a store would be a way to supply the void in the market as well as his needs for his farm in Westfield. He and his brothers had recently sold a business in Winston-Salem and the timing was right to start a new business in King, so he and his brothers decided to start one up.
The brothers were soon approached by Southern States, which had a store in downtown King at the time, asking if they wanted to become an independent dealer for the company. They agreed, and have thrived off of the partnership ever since.
“I can remember the inventory coming over from the King store and it was just a small pile in our warehouse,” said Preston. “I did not know anything about cows or horses. Pretty much everybody was coming in here and starting from ground zero.”
And learn it they did, rapidly growing their primary location at 1073 Meadowbrook Drive and soon opening a second location on Hwy. 67 in 1992.
“The rapid growth had a lot to do with Southern States coming in and offering a huge line of agriculture products as well as home and garden products,” said Tim Tuttle.
The brothers sold product out of both stores, but centralized their book keeping at the King facility. In 1995, a man walked in the door and gave them an offer they could not refuse.
“The guy who was operating Clemmons Mill came in and went into Tim’s office,” remembers Preston. “They were in there for about an hour and then Tim came out asked how we felt about having a location in Clemmons. We went over there and it was a good opportunity for us. It is really an iconic location.”
The company has continued to grow, adjusting to the demands of the changing agriculture market and unexpected events like the Oklahoma bombing and the 9/11 attack.
Preston recalled getting rid of potentially explosive fertilizers like ammonia nitrate.
“I remember getting a letter from the government asking what we were housing,” he said, recalling the reams of paperwork that providing a former staple of the agricultural world suddenly required. “It snowballed into a massive amount of paperwork and it just did not make sense to keep supplying it. So I sent them a certified letter saying we would no longer carry ammonia nitrate.”
Soon after that, two black Chevrolet Suburbans with tinted windows pulled up in the parking lot, and three armed federal inspectors entered the store.
“They were intimidating to say the least,” recalled Tim. “They were serious.”
Preston showed the Homeland Security officers where the ammonia nitrate had been housed, answered their questions and soon they were shaking hands and LTD Farm and Garden was taken off the government monitoring list.
The company has also had to adjust what it offers to meet the needs of its customers over the years.
“We have geared our products to the changes in agriculture and tobacco markets, and have increased our focus with expanded inventory of products for the home and garden,” said Tuttle. “The equine market is also a huge part of our business.”
Today the business focuses on six key product groups including feed, fertilizers, seed, chemicals, general farm supplies and power equipment, but the store also offers a wide array of other products like general hardware, dog and cat food and gun safes.
While what they sell has changed over the years, the key principle of family and service has not changed.
“The number one product we sell is personal service,” said Tim’s son, Clay Tuttle. “We try to provide personal service and a good experience from the moment you walk in the door.”
Clay Tuttle grew up in the store, working there for a couple years while he was in high school before moving on to create his own fencing company. Today, he has returned to the family business, helping to grow its power equipment line and excited to be taking the store into the next generation. The store offers a wide range of power equipment from top dealers like Husqvarna, Kawasaki, Echo, RedMax, Poulan, Dolmar, and Briggs & Stratton for the backyard hobbyist to the large scale operator needing commercial grade equipment.
“And, we have the service and parts to back it all up,” said Clay Tuttle. “We have a full-time service and parts department that you will not find at the big box stores.”
All that attention to service and quality products has paid off, drawing customers from throughout the region to the store’s rural location.
“We even used to ship a lot of stuff to South America,” said Preston. “We had a customer who’s brother was doing chemical applications on a pineapple farm in South America. They were experiencing price gouging there for equipment and supplies, so he referred his brother to us, and in turn the plantation owner started doing business with us. We would ship the parts to them cheaper than they could buy them down there.”
Preston said the store’s greatest asset is its employees, four of whom have been with the company since it opened 25 years ago.
“A lot of them have been here for 15 years,” he said. “Two of them are husband and wife teams. If you take all of the years of experience of the people here, plus their willingness to share their knowledge and it just goes that much further with helping our customers.
“The first thing any of us do here is ask questions,” he added. “A lot of times when people come in they don’t know what they need, but they know what they want as an end product. They just don’t know the questions to ask to get there.”
He said many of the staff have their own specialties they are able to help customers with, but noted they also can call on the cooperative extension and even other long-time customers to help find answers.
“We are all in it together,” he said.
Nicholas Elmes may be reached at 336-591-8191 or on Twitter @NicholasElmes.