SANTA CRUZ -- Westside Farm and Feed is a family business down to each bale of hay. Gail Harlamoff and Susan McCrary Huff are first cousins, and McCrary Huff is married to Butch Huff. Together, the three aim to make the livestock feed and supply store as homey as possible.
"If we could, we'd have a nostalgic old country stove in the store, but the city laws say no way," McCrary Huff said. "We want it to be like where people would go down to the corner store, get together and talk about the crops."
Fireplace aside, the three Santa Cruzans are making their longtime dream of a farm supply store a reality.
The 7,200-square-foot store opened Nov. 19, offering a wide array of animal food, farming materials, and building and gardening supplies for Santa Cruz residents. Hoping to truly make it a community hub, the owners plan to offer classes starting in January.
"Ultimately, we want to be a part of the community," Harlamoff said. "We want people to come here and feel like they can ask questions."
The trio is also trying to deal with the delicate balance of loving other local agriculture and garden stores while opening their own. Their solution? Communicating with others to see what they offer, picking what they see as a perfect location, and carving out their own niche.
"We want to meet a need without impacting other businesses," Harlamoff said. "We care about them, and we felt this was the only place that wouldn't make an
While they've toyed with the idea of opening a livestock shop for years, the three seriously started discussing the idea a year and a half ago. They researched various products and spoke with everyone they could, making sure to offer local goods whenever possible and responsibly manufactured materials.
Fortunately, the three have extensive backgrounds in agriculture. McCrary Huff -- a fifth-generation Santa Cruz County resident along with Harlamoff -- is the daughter of Frank "Lud" McCrary, who founded Big Creek Lumber north of Davenport with brother Homer "Bud" McCrary and other family members in 1946. (Westside Farm and Feed isn't connected to the lumber company). McCrary Huff grew up driving trucks, horse shoeing and raising pigs for 4-H.
Huff, a licensed contractor, helped build the store, sourcing recycled local materials. He has also created solar and solar-power systems and custom-built items to help people create backyard farms.
Harlamoff was executive director of Life Lab for 18 years, which is a nonprofit farm and garden organization that promotes children participating in agriculture.
While the partners say they have appreciated the help of local businesses, collectively they wanted a more central location and one-stop shop for their own needs, Harlamoff said.
"When we all started the conversation of starting the business, we asked, 'Why are we doing this, and why is it important?' " Harlamoff said. "We were talking about how much we disliked having to drive long distances to get things or order them online."
Despite their knowledge of all things farm and feed, the three want people to know the store is open to novices and experts alike. After all, the shop provides basic gardening supplies, which McCrary Huff said feeds into the desire of many area residents to get back to the earth.
"I think as people become more urbanized and computerized, they say, 'I want to get my hands dirty and produce my own food,' " McCrary Huff said. "People are starting to realize they can support their family from their own backyard in the middle of town."
After the store starts to spread its roots a little more, the partners hope to start offering certification classes in Community Emergency Response Teams, which teaches people how to take care of themselves and the community, McCrary Huff said.
For now, though, the three are simply enjoying seeing the store in action.
"I think we're a little too tired to notice it yet," Harlamoff said. "It's just one of those things that's been a dream for so long. We've been talking about it for so long, but now it's not a dream."
Follow Sentinel reporter Bonnie Horgos on Twitter at Twitter.com/bhorgos
If You Go
Westside Farm and Feed
What: Westside Farm and Feed provides livestock feed and supplies, as well as building and farmstead materials. The store will also soon offer a library and North Coast history center, seminars and workshops, dog-training classes, community classes and children's programs.
Where: 817 Swift St., Santa Cruz
Hours: 8 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday
Details: 331-4160, www.westsidefarmandfeed.com