Strunk Couple Opens New Farm and Feed Supply
By Shane Gilreath
With seasonal heat pulling its annual punch and all the intricacies that summer conjures, Whitley City is seeing Dustin and Bridget Lay bring new life to a valued local storefront, and their new venture, Lay’s Farm and Feed Supply, couldn’t be more perfectly timed for all McCreary County’s summer needs. When Dustin Lay bought, opened, and re-purposed the original Jones Farm Supply, he did so with a vision for the future, coupling that with a natural servant’s heart toward serving the community’s needs. In opportune fashion, he also found it to be a continuation of his childhood dream of farming.
“I grew up around farming when I was a kid,” Lay, whose day job sees him working for Highland Telephone, said. “My great Uncle John had a big farm and I always thought ‘I’ll own a farm’ and that was a dream of mine.”
Lay’s Farm and Feed Supply, though, seemed more serendipitous. “I always believed that if there’s a will, there’s a way,” he said. “If you dream it, it will happen…and it will. If you ask for it, the Lord will provide it.”
Dustin and his wife, Bridget, had shopped at their predecessor’s to fulfill the needs of their own 72 acre farm in Strunk, and saw the need for the business’ continuation. It was day-to-day interactions with the previous owners that led to Lay’s purchase. He admits, however, that it’s Bridget’s face that is the better known to regular customers. He’s also quick to credit her involvement, pointing out that she has plans to put her own feminine touch on the store’s offerings, but the realization of his farming dream is always close in play. The couple currently have a dozen head of cattle on their farm with a desire for more, with an eventual plan to offer fresh beef at the store in the coming months, as well as plans to expand into lawn and garden equipment. With recent renovations to the building, the Lays look to eventually offer automobile work and diagnostics, too. The store already offers small engine repairs with a certified mechanic and, tapping into Kentucky’s $5 billion annual agricultural industry, a variety of fresh vegetables, with weekly produce deliveries expected on Saturday mornings. Long term, those, too, could come straight from the Lay farm.
As for the business, it has been a lesson in time management, Lay admits, but says that he would always prefer to be doing something productive than doing nothing. “Stay focused,” he said, “squeeze this in, do that and go there. It keeps me hopping,” he admitted. “I want to be busy from daylight to dark anyway.”
To assure that, he plans to make the store relevant across the four seasons, but acknowledges that recent increases in fuel prices have complicated matters. “Greatly,” he said, when asked about its impact. “Fertilizer prices have gone up, feed prices have went up. Fuel drives everything and everything you get is delivered, and the diesel price has affected everything.”
Lay’s is a sentiment that’s been oft-repeated by business owners across the country in recent months.
The Small Business & Entrepreneurship Council report that 72 percent of small businesses say that increasingly high gas prices are impacting their business, with a majority dissatisfied with the overall direction of federal policies meant to help the economy. Another SBEC survey of 304 small business owners, conducted in late February, even before gas prices had reached their 2022 high, found that 43 percent said their business would not survive if energy prices continued to remain high or increase further.
“On a weekly basis,” Lay said, “it will go up. Something will go up every time. It may be a dollar, but unfortunately, you have to raise your prices with it or you won’t be a business anymore. I don’t like it. I don’t like it at all,” he said, “but we have to live with it for now.”
“Used to,” he continued, “you had a ‘just in time’ program. If you ordered it today, you’d get it tomorrow. Now, it’s whenever we find time, you’ll get it. With COVID and with the whole supply chain debacle, with barges and things like that off the coast, there’s certain brands of things we can’t get. It’s just not in stock,” he said, but admits that people are being very understanding, as citizens deal with the same issues in their day to day lives. It seems imperative to say that the new owners understand the demand. If it’s something someone needs, the store will always try to get it, but, Lay says, it takes time.
As Lay’s brand of small town business acumen becomes better known, the store has shown growth. “We’ve gained a lot of new customers,” Lay said.
“A lot of people drive by every day, “Bridget added, “but didn’t realize that we were here.” But day by day, she has seen growth and new faces. She attributes that to the store’s willingness to advertise and positive word of mouth from customers.
Lay, himself, is always looking for opportunities to move the business forward and, as such, meet McCreary County’s needs. What is certain is, like that of an old-fashioned General Store, when one on one service was a part of life and face-to-face interactions daily, if you make a request, there will be an effort to find it, and done so with every effort to provide quality, small town hospitality, and cost effectiveness. It’s clear that’s just the Lay way of business.
Photo by Shane Gilreath
Dustin and Bridget Lay, proprietors of Whitley City’s new Lay’s Farm and Feed Supply, seek to supply all of McCreary County’s outdoor and agricultural needs, while providing traditional hospitality and time-honored service to their clientele. The Lays, who own a 72-acre farm in Strunk, are pleased to offer fresh produce and eventuallly meats, as part of their store’s many wares.