Old Mill Farm Store embraces past, looks to future

Over the Old Mill Farm Store’s more than 160 years of service to the Cottage Grove area, it has survived seven major fires and a multitude of different owners.

Today, Debbie Lavios and Charles McLeod run the store in a way they feel retains a family-based approach, if a little more globally-minded.

“It’s the two of us and then our grandkids and our adult children,” Lavios said. “We’ve been blessed over the last few years. Our oldest grandsons have been involved with the local football team. So we get to hire a bunch of big, brawny football players and a bunch of family.”

For much of the store’s history, it ground grains to various specifications, shoed horses and cut wood for the local populace.

Sometime around the middle of last century, it began serving the pet market as well.

“Now in our ownership we serve the pet market and the livestock market,” said Lavios. “And a few local human products on the side.”

Lavios and McLeod have been running the store for 20 years and proudly sell products which are pro-organic and pro-local; there’s no shyness in talking about this with customers.

“That’s been really fun to interact with a variety of ages on how you might go about making better food choices for your body or better food choices for our global body,” Lavios said.

The co-owners can find anything from hamster to elephant food if needed. On the shelves, the animal feed runs the gamut of goats, sheep, horses, cows, ducks, chickens and a menagerie of other animals one might find in their home or on a farm.

“Since 1853, this business has truly survived just about everything this nation has gone through,” Lavios said. “This store has kept going.”

Lavios chalks their success up to the deep relationship between human and animals and a bit of their own quirky quaintness.

“We’re slightly different from others,” Lavios said. “As far as we know, we’re only one of two feed stores that has their own piano. And we encourage all our folks to play it when they have time.”