This article was written by BenitoLink reporter intern Corissa King.
After serving San Benito and surrounding counties for 45 years, The O’Connell Family has sold Ranchers Feed. According to county records, on June 18 a grant deed change was made in the names of Brad & Annette Clausen. According to the Secretary of State records, they own Uvas Pines RV Park in Morgan Hill.
The new owners did not respond to BenitoLink’s request for comment.
Ranchers Feed opened October 1976, to fulfill a need for animal health products. Mike O’Connell had access to pharmaceuticals for large animals and began selling them out of a van for less than anywhere else they were available.
Fast forward a couple years and a feed store out of Turlock asked O’Connell if he would be interested in opening a store for them in Hollister. That lasted for a short time and then O’Connell bought the business and inventory.
Ranchers Feed has been in a couple different locations. The first 10 years it was at 731 San Felipe Road between Highway 25 and McCloskey Road. The next 10 years it was in the smaller building that is in front of Ranchers, formerly a Hayward Lumber store. O’Connell later bought the property at 354 First Street, where Ranchers Feed is currently located.
When the store first opened its customers were mainly big commercial ranches such as the Quien Sabe Ranch, Tobias Ranch, Hawkins Ranch and others. Now it mainly focuses on small animals and backyard animals.
“The cost of alfalfa then was four dollars, now it’s $21.50,” said Frank O’Connell, Mike’s son. “It’s time for us to take on a new endeavor.”
Mike added, “It’s time for me to retire.”
Selling the business was difficult because they were hoping to find someone who was interested in buying the store as a whole. Frank approached many large businesses, and none were interested.
“Memories. That’s difficult.” Mike said. “I will miss working with customers, both the long-term ones and the newer residents in San Benito County. I have made friendships and met people from across the world at different shows.”
Hollister resident Meg Haertel said, “It is hard to lose such a staple in our community and good people that give back.”
“People who have walked in the store since the announcement of the closing have been from tears to congratulations,” said Frank. “Most people are happy for us. Some people come in every single Saturday and they’re sad.”
“Whenever I come in I can ask any questions and they will help you without trying to sell you on something,” said customer Sabriena Tobia. “I will miss coming in and seeing happy smiling faces. I’m happy that they are moving on in a good way and not because of issues caused by COVID.”
Frank said, “It’s been a real fun business to be in and a fun community to support. We will miss supporting local FFA Chapters, 4-H Clubs, junior rodeos and much more.”
For Mike, “It’s going to be hard not coming to work everyday. I really enjoyed our customers. Thank you for the wonderful experience. We loved raising our family here at Ranchers Feed. We have wonderful family and community support. It’s been fun.”
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