In a time when many families are exploring sustainability and growing their own food, a family operation like Shell’s Feed & Garden Supply is just the kind of store they need to answer their questions and guide them.
“Whether it’s backyard chickens or growing vegetables, our employees are an amazing resource for families who have limited experience in gardening or raising chickens,” said Greg Shell, whose family has owned Tampa’s oldest feed store since 1961.
“Most of our employees have worked here for many years, and have an incredible amount of experience to share with customers,” said Shell. “Our customers come from as far away as Brooksville and Sarasota, not only because of the quality plants and products we carry, but also to seek advice from our staff.”
Shell’s Feed got its start when Greg’s father, Charles, was 21 years old and just out of the Army. It was 1961, and Charles was looking for something to do when a feed store came up for sale at Nebraska Avenue and Busch Boulevard in Tampa.
Charles bought the store and changed its name to Shell’s Feed.
“It was a good fit for my dad, since my grandfather sold Purina products for many years, and dad was familiar with the feed business. Plus, our family’s farm was in Lutz, and the store was close to our home,” said Shell.
Charles began updating the store, and in 1965 married Betty Tamargo, whose family owned a dairy farm off Casey Road in what is now Carrollwood.
Back then, Tampa Bay was still very rural, and Shell’s Feed took care of farmers and ranchers in Hillsborough, Pinellas, Pasco and Polk counties.
“Dad started selling to Busch Gardens when it was just a two-man operation in the 1960s, and also serviced Hillsborough and Pinellas County Animal Services,” said Shell.
The city grew up around the feed store, and when Busch Boulevard was widened in 1967, the store moved four blocks north to its current location on Nebraska Avenue.
Shell’s first job at the store was picking up trash in the parking lot when he was 8 years old for 25 cents a day. As he got older, he began stocking shelves after school, and eventually became a manager at age 20.
Shell left the family business for eight years in 1999 to open a pet store in Lutz. By 2007, his parents wanted to be less hands-on at the feed store, and he returned to the family business.
Gardening and Pets
“When I came back, I spent the first six months as a regular employee, helping customers and asking what they liked about the store, and what they wanted to see,” said Shell. “This was when I learned our customers were very interested in gardening, and wanted more offerings in pet foods and supplies, so we expanded in both areas.”
“We carry pet food that is equal in quality to the brand names, but without the high prices,” said Shell. “We also sell a wide assortment of bulk treats, so you don’t have to buy a whole bag, like you do at most stores.”
Shell said many pets today have allergies, and most are food related. “We have hypo-allergenic dog foods that work great and won’t break the bank,” he said.
Gardening is also a big part of Shell’s business.
“Our vegetable plants are grown by a local grower, and are healthier than those sold in big box stores,” said Shell. “Our staff can answer questions on gardening from start to finish. We make sure you choose the right plants to grow at the right time of the year.”
Since many customers are inexperienced gardeners, and many want to learn how to raise chickens in their backyard, Shell’s offers Saturday classes for its customers.
Its next class is March 9, and the topic is growing and harvesting Earthbox gardens, which are ideal for suburban patios and urban balconies. The class is from 1 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. Registration and information for all classes and events are at www.shellsfeed.com/store-classes-events/.
Shell’s also hosts free Saturday Seed Swaps once a month from 8:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m., for most of the year. The next two Swaps are March 23 and April 20.
“Our Seed Swaps are a great way to swap seeds, cuttings and seedlings for something new. Plus, it’s a great way to meet people who also love to garden,” said Shell.
Through the years, chicken feed has always been Shell’s top seller, although much of today’s feed now goes to families with backyard chickens.
“Chickens are very easy to take care of. A family of four can keep three hens and have all the fresh eggs their family needs,” said Shell.
Shell’s Feed & Garden Supply is still the old-fashioned, down-home shop Greg’s parents started, but with products and services suburban families want today, including online ordering and shipping.
“We invite you to bring the kids and visit our store for an old fashion experience that the whole family will enjoy,” said Shell.
Published February 27, 2019