A Farmer, A Sheikh and Some Good Hay

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.


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10 Responses to A Farmer, A Sheikh and Some Good Hay

  1. Viewer 5 says:

    I LOVE JOHN!!!
    Thanks so much for the story, Empress. I suppose it’s a testament to my suspicious nature that when I first read of the large order, I thought: “oh shit. someone’s going to screw john over on the bales. damnit!” What a relief to read of a local business owner who has a feeling of community, sells an excellent product, and takes pride in it. It ain’t the money for someone like John, it’s the respect he gives to his customers and the respect they pay him in return.

    That’s why I volunteer at our little local quasi-private teensy, tiny library, b/c the people are so nice. The “customers” are mostly in their 70’s (you should see bridge class – it’s so cute!) and they scoot in daily to read the paper and magazines and check out large print books and books on CD and are sometimes VERY (rich and) demanding. But I don’t care. They’re so cute! And I love the people I work with.

    It took me a while to find the library. I’d volunteered at (2) other organizations but quit w/in two days b/c someone started bossing me around (I call it “d*ck swinging”) about NOTHING. You can’t pay me to work with people like that, and I’m sure as hell not going to work for “free” for them, either.

    All I’ve wanted in my adult life (past career ambition, which I’ve soundly given up on) is a sense of community where people treated one another with respect and kindness. I love stories about those who go out of their way to do little things for people. I love stories about someone like John, who goes the extra mile because he feels at ONE with his community.

    And I must write, tangentially… f**k walmart®

  2. windycitywondering1 says:

    Many of us try to patronize our community’s local businesses and this is a very beautiful example! People who decide to be their own boss are usually very grateful for those patrons who take the time to get to know them and who clearly want to see them succeed. John sounds like a delightful individual.

  3. klmh says:

    How wonderful to have a Sheikh ride into your small town to bring prosperity to John and some of the other merchants there.
    I wonder what his tax and health insurance rates are (the Sheikh’s)? I wonder how much he gives back to your community in way of donations and financial support?
    Am I making more of the story than there is?

    • I don’t think that the Sheikh came here with any thought about the community. This stable is another in a huge racehorse business, Darley Stables, with other locales, such as Australia, Japan and Europe. The Aiken area is attractive to these people because the land is less expensive than areas like Wellington or Saratoga, and we have a number of other stables with Thoroughbred training tracks. Other than whatever taxes and insurances he pays, I don’t think that local business owners have been helped very much. He brings his own trainers, veterinarians and jockeys. Locals have been hired to build infrastructure for his farm – barns, fences, pastures – and he has employed some area groomers and maintenance workers.
      If any other businesses have seen an uptick, it is only because his choice of Aiken as another place to park his horses has put our facilities and land “on the map”, so to speak, for others in the racing industry.

    • PussyGalore says:

      klmh…in a word…..yes.

  4. catnapper says:

    Simply “marvelous” said in Billy Crystal fashion.

  5. Enjoyed your story Empress. You’re pretty good at business ideas! John knows how much you’ve helped him, & it’s nice that he keeps you happy. Have a good weekend everyone!

  6. Designdiva says:

    As a part owner ( retired ) with Mr ford of a pump and plumbing business.. I always made sure we took care of the “friends” we had made during the course of our business years… And they appreciated that IMMENSELY for sure…..
    If we came across someone who was down on their luck $$ wise but NEEDED water because they had kids..Mr ford would make sure they got that water and we worried about the $$ later..if ever… Some paid..some didnt…. it was all good…. But if we showed up and you had that TUDE.. we charged DOUBLE… just cuz… and no guilt….LOL LOL


  7. Adgirl says:

    I love this story. Just too cute and upbeat. Thanks!

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