A 7-year-old might be one of Richlands' youngest "employees" at one of Richlands' oldest businesses.
It's all part of how family tradition keeps people returning to Onslow Feed and Grain.
The longtime business, located at 410 W. Hargett St. in Richlands, opened in 1954 as Richlands Milling Company by current owner Elsie Jones' father, who served in World War II. Elsie Jones has been with the store for 48 years, and in 2019, won the Onslow County Service to Agriculture award. She was the first woman to win.
Onslow Feed and Grain is a local feed store that sells hay, livestock feed and premium pet foods.
Jones' daughter Stacy Jones Pitts is the third generation to work at the store. Stacy and her husband, Scott Pitts, have two children; 4-year-old Hayes and 7-year-old Sloane, who will be the fourth generation to work at the store.
Scott Pitts said Sloane already loves helping out, whether working the register, counting the money or putting price tags on items.
"It's really, really neat to see her dusting the shelves like her mom, like her grandmother who has been working there 48 years, and her great-grandmother," Pitts said. "When I pick her up from school on Friday, she wants to come stay, and she wants to work the register, and things like that already."
Jones said Sloane has already claimed jobs for her and her friend when they get older.
"I don't think Elsie gets enough credit for working one job for 48 years," Scott Pitts said. "It's neat. It brings a lot of pride and joy in me to see my daughter want to be here."
There are currently 12 employees at Onslow Feed and Grain. Jones said many are still in high school, and some are even retired military.
"A lot of the ones that came in shopping have grown up and worked for us," Scott Pitts said.
Karmin Shepard, the store manager, is also a big part of the business, having worked there for 12 years, and she said she doesn't plan on going anywhere anytime soon. Scott Pitts and Jones said while she's not family, she's as close to family as you can possibly get.
One of the biggest things Jones loves about the store is getting to know all her customers. Since she has been there so long, she sees them grow up and love getting to know their families and the generations of people.
"They'll start as little kids coming up and now they're grown," Jones said.
Jones and Scott Pitts both said some of their other favorite parts about the business are the work they do with and for the community.
Scott Pitts said they like to do community-oriented things, not just to get business, but to be an asset or benefit to the community. They hosted a free Fall Carnival this year for kids, offer a drive through rabies clinic a couple of times a year, and last year, had the opportunity to help FFA when they weren't able to do their plant sale. Onslow Feed and Grain purchased most of their plants to sell at the store.
"It's those little things like that that make an impact," Scott Pitts said. "I don't know if there's been a benefit that we don't buy a barbecue plate from."
Scott Pitts said they probably donate thousands of dollars each year to different areas within the community.
"It's not for the purpose of furthering us," he said, "it's for the betterment of the community."
Scott Pitts also said they pride themselves on their product. All of their products come from North Carolina. He said that the feed's all manufactured here, all the hay is from local farmers, and all the corn they sell is from local farmers as well.
"I would say we do as much business as we can within the community as humanly possible," said Scott Pitts.
With the Tractor Supply set to open this month in Richlands, many residents worry about how Onslow Feed and Grain will be impacted, though several plan to stick with the tried-and-true store.
“Elsie and Onslow Feed and Grain have always supported the Richlands community, ordered items if you ask, sponsored local events, and are, themselves, a part of the community,” said Richlands resident Shirley Weston. “Onslow Feed and Grain will continue to receive my business.”
Richlands resident Jeramie West has been coming to Onslow Feed and Grain for about 30 years, and said she's probably one of their biggest customers as she is a horse trainer. She also works for one of their distributers.
"It's exactly what you want a small town business to be," West said. "It still feels good. You walk in, they know you by name, they deliver to you. If you ask them for something, they'll carry it."
West said that even with the Tractor Supply coming right around the corner, there just isn't a comparison. She said Onslow Feed and Grain's prices are good, the food is good, and it's fresh and clean.
"It's personal. When you walk in and ask for help, there are people here who can answer your questions," West said. "It's the perfect feed store. I'm blessed to have them."
Scott Pitts said that the expectation for small businesses is not the same as it is for places like Walmart or Tractor Supply.
"You've got to be as efficient as Walmart, but as friendly and understanding as a next door neighbor," said Scott Pitts.
You can visit Onslow Feed and Grain this Saturday, Dec. 4 from 10 a.m. to noon to see Santa and have a picture made with him for your kids or pets. Onslow Feed and Grain is open Monday-Friday from 8 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. and Saturdays from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. It's closed on Sundays.
Reporter Morgan Starling can be reached at email@example.com
This article originally appeared on The Daily News: Onslow Feed and Grain is one of Richlands' oldest businesses