About a year ago, a little store opened up down the road from us and it was selling fresh produce, some baked goods and other sundry items. We met the owner, John, on one of our visits to buy some vegetables, most of which, he said, were from his own farm. He told us that he also ran the auto body shop next door and that he had decided to expand the family business. My husband and I asked if he intended to sell feed and/or hay because here, in Aiken, such things are in huge demand, particularly if the quality is good. A month or so later, we saw that he had started stocking bales of hay. We bought a few to see how the horses would like it and they gave us a very enthusiastic hooves up. I have to say, that of the half dozen places we’ve tried, this stuff was the best.
As the months have gone by, the three of us have become friends, with John extending free delivery to us when and if we needed it, as well as promising us that he would keep his prices low for us. We took him up on his gracious offer, at first, only on those occasions when we were unable to pick it up ourselves. Now it has become a regular occurrence, but we still stop by the store to pick other things up, or simply to order a delivery and chat. He and his family are truly lovely people, and even offered us the use of one of their trucks while ours was having cosmetic surgery.
We stopped by this morning, after running some errands, and John came over to greet us. The spring in his step and the enthusiasm in his wave made us smile, wondering what in the hell he was so happy about this particular day. He said that something wonderful had happened to him and began to relate the story. It seems that a man had stopped by, and asked about John’s hay and the price of the bales. After getting the information he left, but returned an hour or so later to purchase two of the bales. A little while later, the man called the store, said that he had tested the hay and that he wanted John to deliver 3,000 bales.
John called his supplier, told him about the order and called some people, with a lot of trucks, to make the delivery. What John didn’t know, until he arrived at the address, was that the owner of the property he was making the delivery for was the Sheikh of Dubai. The Sheikh had bought 360 acres of land in the little town of Montmorenci, just outside of Aiken, in 2010. He has developed his own training facility, along with his own 1 mile training track, for his stable of Thoroughbred racehorses. The trainer who had placed the order met up with John when the trucks began pulling in and told him that the Sheikh was in town for the week. He had brought some of his horses up from Ocala and Wellington, Florida, and others had been flown in from London for their Spring training. The sample bales had met his and his staff’s approval. It seems that even folks in Dubai know a good deal when they see one.
Well, given the fact that this town has about 7,000 horses and horse people being so damned competitive about everything, word spread like lightning. That’s another thing they’re good at here – we have our own small town version of the coconut telegraph. By Thursday morning, John’s little business was bustling, and phones were ringing off the hook with orders. The Sheikh’s people had placed an order for two tons of feed, and a number of horse owners within a 10 mile radius were asking for their own supply deliveries.
We placed our own little order and assured John that we were in no rush, that even a couple of days wasn’t going to be a problem. We could see that he was busy and we wanted him to enjoy the feeling of having won the lottery. What he said to us made me hug him – “They’re customers. You’re friends. I’ll be out to your place in 20 minutes.” By the way, I had once commented to him about the lack of an equine related consignment shop in a town so involved in these creatures. John showed us the renovations he’s doing to make some space available.