In the late summer of 1961, Shell’s Feed and Garden Supply, Inc. opened the doors to its family-owned Tampa-based store without even so much as a cash register. Almost 60 years later, Shell’s has become a household name to residents throughout the Tampa Bay area and remains rooted in family values, adaptability and a transcendent work ethic.
Patch discusses this in detail with Shell’s Feed and Garden Supply President Greg Shell, highlighting what sets Shell’s apart from other pet supply distributors and the future of the business.
Patch: What sets Shell’s apart from local pet food locations?
Shell: We help our customers determine what the best food would be for their pets by asking questions: what type of breed of animal, activity level, current health status and known allergies, for example. Pets today have complex health issues just like us humans, and perhaps unbeknownst to the pet owner, most national brands of pet food have a lot of fillers and byproducts that cause allergies and inflammation.
At Shell’s, we help the customer navigate these issues instead of them having to just rely on advertisements, which can be very misleading. Finding the best pet food to match the pet owner’s budget is also a key factor, and due to the amount of food we sell, it allows us to pass those volume discounts on to our customers.
Patch: Tell us about the Shell’s Feed & Garden Supply beginnings. What’s your story?
Shell: In 1961, my father, Charles, was 21 years old and trying to figure out what to do with the rest of his life. After serving in the U.S. Army, an opportunity came up to buy a feed store. He invested his life savings of $1,500 and went to work, with his mother as the cashier and father as bookkeeper.
He delivered feed to farms and poultry producers as far away as Levy County as well as serving the local retail market. Shell’s moved to its current location after the original building was demolished in 1967 due to the widening of Temple Terrace Highway, now Busch Boulevard, and consists of a 5,000-square-foot retail store and over 10,000 square feet of warehouse space.
Patch: Shell’s was one of the first — and only — Purina distributors in the Tampa area back in the 60s. How has Shell’s transformed since its inception?
Shell: We still sell several tons of Purina feed per week; however, with so much urban development around us in the past 50 years, the types of feed we sell has definitely changed. The City of Tampa now allows chickens to be raised in city limits as pets and for egg production and that contributes to a lot of our feed sales.
From our farm feed-selling roots, we have over the years expanded into the pet supply market as well, especially for dogs and cats, but also for birds, wild birds, fish, reptiles, rodents and other pet animals. We are proud of our selection of food and supplies for our customer’s farm and pet needs and continue to add new items each year!
Patch: Shell’s is and always has been a family-run business. What are the benefits of this? How does it fit into Shell’s vision and values?
Shell: Being a small family-run business allows us to cater to the ever-changing needs of our customers. When a customer comes in with a problem, we offer the best solution possible without interference from a sales-driven corporate environment. For us, it’s not just about making the sale, it’s more about treating the customer as we would like to be treated. We are customer service driven instead of sales driven. We also have a real, live person that answers the phone instead of an automated assistant. We prefer it that way and our customers do, too.