Cleary feed store back in the family
Conor Cleary and wife Morgan Reed have relaunched Cleary Feed & Seed in Spencerville, formerly known as the Dixie and Egan farm supply store. Conor is a seventh-generation Cleary and the fourth generation to run an iteration of Cleary Feed & Seed since the company’s inception in 1919. Whalen photo
SPENCERVILLE – After a three-decade hiatus, Spencerville’s Cleary Feed & Seed is back in business and under familiar management.
Conor Cleary (29) and his wife Morgan Reed have taken over the former Dixie and Egan Feed Store in Spencerville. The business was started by Conor’s great, great- grandfather, William Cleary, in 1919 as Cleary Farm Supply. It now operates under the name Cleary Feed & Seed and is located in the same building behind the Home Hardware.
At a time when it seems more people are getting out of agricultural businesses than in, the young entrepreneurs are both optimistic and confident in the successful future of the business.
“I had been looking for an opportunity to blend my background in agriculture with technology and logistics experience,” explained Cleary. “We wanted to create a local hub of sorts for locally produced goods and food to sell alongside honey and beekeeping supplies – all of which we plan on doing in the future.
If this agricultural staple in our community had closed permanently, there would have been a large gap in the availability of farm supplies in the immediate area.”
The store has a full offering of feed (including organic options) and minerals for cattle, horses, goats, sheep, hogs, poultry, rabbits, dogs, cats, and wild birds (including feeders). From hardware to fencing to water softener salt, Cleary Feed & Seed has a smattering of everything – including seed and fertilizer. You can even order chicks, worms and beneficial insects for your garden!
Store hours are 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday, and 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday. The store is closed Sunday and Wednesday.
Agribusiness is in Conor’s blood. He grew up on the family farmstead just down the road, the eldest of five children born to Doug Cleary and Mary Whalen. His knack for business stems from studying farm business in college, earning a certificate in Supply Chain Management and previous work experience managing a beekeeping supply store.
Conor and Morgan’s plans to grow the business include expansions. “All of the currently offered products will remain business-as-usual for people depending on them. We’d also like to bring in new local-first suppliers to expand our inventory and offer competitive pricing,” he explained. “We plan on constructing a new building across the road near the original Cleary Farm Supply in the next year or two. This will enable us to hold a larger inventory and expand into other product lines, such as locally raised meats and seasonal vegetables. It will also facilitate the use of a forklift in the warehouse, which will significantly increase labour efficiency.”
And how does it make him feel to know the business is back in Cleary hands? “I’ve always enjoyed reading up on family history and listening to stories from other local farmers about their time spent at the feed store. As a seventh generation Cleary in Spencerville, I’m glad to have this opportunity to expand on the work of my predecessors. I hope to be of service to the local community and help keep agriculture a thriving and viable industry in Grenville County for many years to come.”
The story of Cleary Feed & Seed
Cleary Feed & Seed has returned to its roots in both the Spencerville community and the Cleary family. Located at 3020 County Road 21 in Spencerville – just behind the Home Hardware store – Cleary Feed & Seed is now owned and operated by Conor Cleary – seventh generation Cleary and the fourth generation to run the business.
William Cleary had worked the family farm from a young age and married Margaret Kingston in 1896. Their son, Frederick, married in 1919 and took over the farm, while William and Margaret bought 3027 County Road 21 and moved a small farm store to the busier road, calling it Cleary Farm Supply.
William ran the store until his death in 1950, after which his son Fred (died 1985) ran the business after his own sons started working the farmstead. The store sold feed, seed, fertilizer, farm hardware, diesel, gasoline, coal, lumber, etc.
In the 1970s Howard Cleary (Conor’s great-uncle) had his own farm nearby and worked with his father, Fred, in the farm supply business, eventually taking it over. In 1974, Howard moved the store across the road east of the Ottawa – St. Lawrence Railway to where the Hogan Feed Mill had been and built a brand-new facility for Cleary Farm Supply. Cleary Farm Supply encompassed Spencerville Home Hardware, a feed and fertilizer store, a machinery dealership selling and servicing Belarus, Deutz and Ebro tractors, as well as short line equipment like George White sprayers, wagons, Fox harvesters and chain saws. With the downturn in the agricultural economy in the 1980s, the machinery portion of the business was eliminated but the Home Hardware and feed business carried on. In the early ’90s Howard sold Cleary Farm Supply to Michael MacNaughtan.
The current iteration of Cleary Feed & Seed used to be a railroad warehouse north of the passenger train station; just behind the current Home Hardware building. It stored coal and other commodities that William had started bringing into the area, supplying the village of Spencerville.
Howard retrofitted the warehouse to be a feed store and ran the store and his farm until he sold the farm in 1980 to Remy Brochon. In the ’80s the store was called Cleary Feed and Seed but was owned and operated by Kerry Carruthers before becoming an outlet owned by the Dixie and Egan Ltd. feed mill in Addison, Ont.
The store was successfully run by Joe Lawrence for 21 years and by Grant Vale for four years through Dixie and Egan. Harvex-Agromart bought Dixie and Egan in 2017 and decided to shutter the Spencerville location. The closure was scheduled for Oct. 31. The very next day, Conor Cleary reopened the doors as Cleary Feed & Seed.