By Vanesa Brashier
The bell above the door at Maci’s Feed and Supply in Hardin never stops ringing – a sign of the constant flow of customers in and out of a business that has served Liberty County since 1987.
On many days, the owner of the business, Connie Campbell, greets each person as they enter the store with “Good morning, how are you doing today?” It is the service her customers have grown to expect and it’s what separates Maci Feed from the competition, Campbell believes.
“I think it’s the way we built the business to begin with and it’s what keeps us going,” she said. “The competition might tell customers they can beat whatever price I offer but they can’t beat our service.”
When Campbell purchased Maci Feed in 1987 from Larry and Judy Fontenot, the business was located in an old gas station building with a leaky roof.
“Larry and Judy showed up at my back door wanting to sell the business. They thought I could make it work,” Campbell said. “They didn’t own the property but they owned the business, which had been named for their two daughters. The building we were in was so old it had three bathrooms – men, women and colored. When it rained, we put out every feed bucket we had just to catch water from the roof.”
The “we” in the equation was Campbell and her late husband, Reagan “Shorty” Campbell. Shorty, a petroleum consultant, was the financial support for the business as Connie worked to make it prosper.
“The first time I had to borrow money was $20,000 to purchase the building. I had been paying $350 a month in rent prior to that. I borrowed the money from the bank, with Shorty as co-signer, and he later gift-deeded it back to me. He always saw Maci Feed as my project,” she said.
Determined for the business to succeed and pay its own way, Campbell worked long hours, never taking a salary herself and reinvesting everything she could into the business. Along the way, she received encouragement from other local business owners, including Louie Potetz and the Potetz family, who own Potetz Home Center in Liberty, and the late Louie Majors who once owned a thriving general store in Liberty at the same location where Dillon’s liquor is today.
“A lot of other local businesses have been good to me. It was the encouragement I needed at the time,” she said.
Whenever the oil industry experienced a major downturn in the 1980s, it was advice from Majors that kept her going.
“He said for me not to change what I was doing prior to the downturn or I would create my own depression. He said to keep the shelves as full as I could and do business every day just like I had been doing. That was very good advice,” she said.
Campbell has her own wisdom for potential entrepreneurs – know your business.
“Educate yourself about the products you are going to sell. Select an area in which you know something about. Be knowledgeable and then be willing to work hard,” she said.
“I am not an educated person but I grew up on a dairy farm and I’ve been very involved with 4-H and FFA programs. With that background, it prepared me for this business. You need to know something about what you are selling. You can’t sell something that you don’t know anything about, and I knew about agriculture,” Campbell added.
Failure only comes from not trying, she said.
“The only failure is from not trying something you want to do. That’s the way I look at it,” Campbell said.
CHAMPION FOR CHILDREN
Campbell can be found with a bidder paddle in her hand every April and October, bidding in youth livestock shows in Cleveland and Liberty, respectively. She says she has lost track of the amount of money she has spent purchasing livestock and county fair projects over the years.
“I think these kids are our future so I try to nurture them. Youth, education and agriculture are great passions for me,” she said.
Many of her best employees were local high school students, some of whom are now doctors, state championship coaches and business owners.
“Dave Chessher, my store manager, and I were just talking about that. These kids were my best employees who eventually outgrew me and moved on,” Campbell said. “I am very proud of them.”
PICKING PRODUCTS CUSTOMERS NEED
Campbell said knowing her customers’ needs has helped her select products for her store.
“Wherever there is a need, I try to fill that gap,” she said.
The store offers everything from chemicals and fertilizer, farm, ranch and animal needs, saddles and tack to home décor, Western apparel such as hats, belts and purses, customized Yeti mugs, customized knives and Savage, Browning and Winchester rifles. Inside a small case near the counter is even a supply of essential oils.
“We’ve shipped engraved knives to New Mexico, Mississippi and Arkansas. Recently we had an order of 50 engraved knives for one company. All of that came from word of mouth. I don’t do any national advertising. I only advertise locally,” she said.
When she isn’t tending the counter or overseeing deliveries of feed and supplies, Campbell can be found at her desk with engraving tools.
“I am the only engraver we have right now so that takes up a lot of my time. I work the front counter when I can and greet customers whenever I can because it’s important to me,” she said.
FAITH TESTED, NEVER BROKEN
Campbell said that losing her husband last year to illness was the single-most challenging moment in her life.
“It is hard to trust in God sometimes, but we must. I try to do what is right and depend on God to take care of everything else in my life. During the last three months of Shorty’s life, when he was very ill, I didn’t work at all, and it’s odd because in 30 years of business I never thought I could take time off, but the business survived without me,” she said. “God saw me through it.”
Even though she has worked hard to earn her success, Campbell credits God for providing her health and abilities.
“Everything I have is a gift from God. I do work very hard but just by the grace of God I walk in these shoes and not someone else’s,” she said. “I love work. I think it’s a blessing to have the health to work. A lot of people wish they had the health to work and can’t, so I never take that for granted.”
Maci Feed and Supply, located at 10769 SH 146 in Hardin, is open seven days a week except major holidays. Hours are 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. weekdays, 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturdays and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Sundays.
On the web, the store can be found at www.macifeedandsupply.com. Call the store at 936-298-9404 for more information.