Kingston feed store could stay open as co-op

Sacks Feed and Garden owner Dave Hildebrand checks on some plants in the store’s greenhouse. - Brad Camp/For the Herald
Sacks Feed and Garden owner Dave Hildebrand checks on some plants in the store’s greenhouse.
— image credit: Brad Camp/For the Herald

KINGSTON — May is a busy month for Sacks Feed and Garden, when plants start flying off shelves and employees sling feed bags into trucks.

“My back is feeling it from the weekend,” owner Dave Hildebrand said on a quiet Monday in the shop. “We loaded lots of compost.”

Hildebrand has owned Sacks for 15 years — long enough for the work to take a toll on his back. Long enough to be working with a second store dog. Long enough to be ready for something new.

He hopes to have the Kingston store sold by the end of summer so he can semi-retire and focus on a side career in architecture.

Hildebrand is ready to move on but his customers aren’t walking away. This spring a core group of Sacks shoppers is conjuring up a plan to buy Sacks and maintain it as a cooperative business. The group held its first planning meeting in late April and has been trying to spread the word with customer surveys and booths at local events. The group will hold another meeting May 8 (see page 6).

So far 63 people have expressed interest in buying a $100 share in the co-op, said Kinley Deller, a Sacks shopper from Eglon who is organizing the effort. The co-op would need to sell 5,000 shares to buy the business and property — both are for sale — but Deller said there’s potential to buy the business and have another investor purchase the property.

How to structure the co-op is still in early discussion. It would probably include a discount buying club for members and they may also contribute volunteer time, Deller said.

The co-op could be challenging to float in a town where others have had mixed results. The cooperative Kingston Art Gallery recently fled to Poulsbo, while a co-op bakery moved into the Kingston hotel building.

For now the group is trying to build interest while working toward a late-summer deadline for buying the store.

“The idea now is to get the idea out there and get people thinking, talking about it,” Deller said.

Sacks has been a staple on State Route 104 for 25 years — one of a dwindling number of independent feed sellers in the Northwest.

Its prices aren’t usually as cheap as its corporate competitiors, but shoppers say Sacks has goods that are hard to find elsewhere. Things like organic feed and fertilizer, local hay and homegrown knowledge.

“I could go to Cenex and get everything,” said Melodee Smith, who keeps alpacas on a small farm off Bond Road. “But I like the ambiance (in Sacks) and I like the people who own it and I like the people who work there.”

Deller doubts much would change from an inventory standpoint if the co-op succeeds in buying Sacks. It would keep all the standbys — feed, fertilizer and the like — while switching up some slow sellers.

The important thing is to keep Sacks alive.

“What are we going to do for our feed if he moves out and a Burger King goes in?” Deller said.

Hildebrand said at least two other prospective buyers have shown interest in the business and when it comes down to it, he’ll sell to whomever can put together the financing. Still, he hopes the co-op group finds traction.

“In my heart I like the co-op,” Hildebrand said. “I think it could be a perfect fit for this community.”

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