Chelsea Farmers Supply Begins a New Chapter in a Century-Old Legacy
One of Chelsea's cherished landmarks, Chelsea Farmers Supply, embarked on an exciting new journey as it welcomes new proprietors, marking another shift in its storied history. Store ownership changed hands in December. The torch was passed from long-time owners HK Leonard and Greg Raye to Tobie Brown and Joe Schlenke, a husband-and-wife team from Grass Lake.
This change heralds a continuity of tradition and service, as the new owners, Tobie and Joe, are no strangers to the charm and appeal of the store. Their discovery of the store, while seeking quality feed for their backyard chickens, quickly turned into admiration. "We immediately fell in love with the place," Brown shares, highlighting the store's unique character and the former owners' warm hospitality. With 25 years in the hospitality sector under their belt, Tobie and Joe emphasize the importance of fostering customer and community relations, recognizing these as the core of any successful business.
The store's location, adjacent to Chelsea's historic train depot and across from the Clocktower Complex at 122 Jackson Street, places the landmark building in the midst of Chelsea’s ongoing redevelopment in that area. Originally a family home on Main Street in the 1850s, the building was repurposed as The Chelsea House Hotel in 1889 after relocation. Serving rail travelers and visitors to the emerging town, the hotel witnessed Chelsea's growth and transformation.
Chelsea Farmers Supply's roots can be traced back to 1926, with the installation of an iron feed mill in the hotel's basement. This development marked the beginning of the store's focus on agricultural needs, providing livestock feed and farming tools. It soon became a hub for local farmers from Chelsea, Dexter, Manchester, and Stockbridge, fostering a community spirit that has been the store's hallmark.
Under Leonard and Raye's ownership, which began in 1990, Chelsea Farmers Supply expanded its offerings to include pet food, gardening supplies, and locally-made items while maintaining its traditional charm and community-focused ethos.
As they step into their roles, the new owners, Brown and Schlenke, aim to preserve the store's legacy while injecting modern touches. "We aren’t looking to change very much," Schlenke asserts, nodding to the store's rich history. Their enthusiasm for engaging with the community is palpable as they invite locals to visit: "Come on down and see us!" they enthuse, eager to meet and serve the community's needs.
The store reopened on January 2, maintaining its regular hours of operation, Monday- Saturday, 10 am-6 pm.
Photo by Greg Raye