The Kelton family is used to adapting with the turning pages of the calendar.
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As the years have passed by, the family, which has owned and operated Murfreesboro Feed & Seed – now simply Kelton’s – for nearly 35 years has had to adapt to the changing landscape of Murfreesboro in order to survive.
When brothers Jerry and Kent Kelton opened Murfreesboro Feed & Seed in 1973 – taking over from feed dealer Ellis Gray – they primarily sold bulk dairy, pig and cattle feed.
The store, which relocated to 620 W. Burton St. in 1974, even delivered feed to area farms, said Jerry’s son Jason, who now runs the family business.
It was Jason – at his father’s request – who led the store’s latest reincarnation to a new and much larger store at 2870 Old Fort Parkway. The new store opened in October with a new name.
“I think that is the key to any business – to be open to change,” Kelton said.
Now as his father is nearing retirement, Jason Kelton has taken the reins of the store. Kent Kelton died in 1985.
Kelton, who has a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from Tennessee Tech University, grew up in the feed store and had longed to come back to the business following college.
“My father never pushed me into the business,” he said. “He basically told us we could do anything that we set our mind to do.
“I always knew in the back of my mind that I wanted to come back to the same business atmosphere,” he said.
The feed store’s relocation and expansion came to fruition through a Purina program that helps feed dealers transition to a customer friendly retail store, Kelton said.
Purina, Kelton’s feed supplier, came to the Keltons about three and a half years ago with the proposal.
Purina helped the Keltons with the exterior and interior design of the new store and the selection of merchandise.
“We both just saw it as an opportunity to keep the business growing and to expand it,” Kelton said.
Competing with national retail chains and other niche stores is tough, he admits.
“We are all looking for the same dollar,” Kelton said.
Jerry Kelton said the store had reached a plateau at its former location.
“We couldn’t grow the way we needed to grow,” he said.
The Nissan manufacturing plant, established in Smyrna in 1980, sparked much of the initial change at Kelton’s. The plant was a major catalyst for economic and population growth in Rutherford County.
“When Nissan came in we knew things were going to change,” the elder Kelton said. “We got into the power equipment part of the business then. We knew things were going to change.”
In fact, he said Murfreesboro Feed & Seed serviced the farm where the plant is now located.
After the plant opened, the Keltons decided to sell more power and two-cycle equipment.
“My uncle knew the dairy farms we were servicing were going to go to the way side,” Jason Kelton said.
That part of the business, however, didn’t pick up until the early 1990s with the surge of new home construction, he said.
Hobby farmers with five to 10 acres of land seem to be the largest segment of Kelton’s customer base now, Kelton said.
The verdict is still out on how the store will continue to evolve and if the current product mix will mesh with customer needs, he said.
Kelton’s sells a wide variety of power equipment from such brands as Grasshopper, Simplicity, RedMax and Shindaiwa; equine and bird feed and supplies, lawn and garden equipment and more than 15 brands of dog and cat food.
Erin Edgemon can be reached at 869-0812 and at firstname.lastname@example.org.
2870 Old Fort Parkway
Hours of Operation:
Monday through Saturday 8 a.m. to 7 p.m.