Last week I wrote about local business Topeka Seed and Stove for our Business of the Month. This retailer, like so many in our area, is special because, not only does it reflect the long-held American ethic of hard work paying off, it also shares a long, vibrant history with its local culture.
Topeka Seed and Stove started with a man and a shovel in 1937. Omer Hochstetler began by spreading marl on fields (marl is a type of clay and lime fertilizer) using trucks pulling a barrel spreader. When Omer’s brother joined him, Omer paid him $2.00 per day, a really good salary for that time.
In the early 1940’s, Omer purchased a semi and began hauling shelled corn as well as coal. In 1964, he installed a grain elevator, but in 1965, he passed away at the young age of 53. Sons Bill and James, along with their mother, continued operations.
In the early 1980’s the railroad was being removed from Topeka, and several hundred car rail grain terminals were going within 35 miles of Topeka, which made it impossible to compete in the grain market. That is when Topeka Seed & Feed across from Topeka Livestock came up for sale, which the family purchased for a second business.
With their previous experience in hauling and selling coal, in 1984 Topeka Seed & Stove was formed, and along with farm supplies, the Hochstetlers began selling wood & coal stoves as well. Then along came the invention of outdoor wood furnaces, which was incorporated into the business in 1986.
With such a nice, resounding history of Topeka Seed & Stove, they know how to run a business, and they know how to treat customers with kindness and fairness. Even though they’re in the heating business, in a manner of speaking, they never have a slow business month, in part due to customer loyalty.
The other nice thing about this business is that, because it’s located in a small town, many locals stop in just to say hello during the week. There’s the older gentleman Harley Frye, who sometimes will even jump in to help if necessary. Many farmers stop in weekly as well.
Some specific guys come in on Friday, which helps the owners know what day of the week it is.
What a nice thought…to know the day of the week simply because you recognize a friendly face.
Whenever you travel to LaGrange County, stop in at Topeka Seed & Stove, regardless of your need for seed, grain, or heating. The folks are salt of the earth, and they’ll be glad you visited. They also will share more history and little known facts about our little area of the world.
Click here to visit Topeka Seed and Stove website as well as get directions to their store.
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