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greens feedseed

Mike Wynn of Alum Creek is one of the new owners of Green’s Feed & Seed in Charleston. Wynn, 37, and two other investors who wanted to remain anonymous, took over the Piedmont Road store on Oct. 1.

Longtime Green’s Feed & Seed fans can rest easy — the iconic, multi-purpose store will remain just as it is, one of its new owners says.

Mike Wynn, 37, of Alum Creek, and two other investors who wish to remain anonymous took over the Piedmont Road store Oct. 1, after months-long talks with the Green family. Patriarch Earl Green, now in his 90s, still stops in periodically to check on the store he piloted for more than 70 years.

Earl’s son Mike, now 68, has devoted much of his life to the business and still checks in. His son, Mike Jr., 45, remains on duty manning the checkout counter at the store, one of the few in the country whose recording asks a caller to press one for “Pets” and two for “Chemicals.” Just don’t mix the two.

Green’s sells a little of everything — pet supplies, insecticide, livestock feed, seed for planting, and garden and landscaping materials. Its wide inventory and renowned customer service have cemented it as a Kanawha Valley institution.

“The whole staff’s sticking around,” Wynn said Thursday. “That’s part of the reason it’s been such a lengthy process on the front end. The three of us have been coming to Green’s for decades. We didn’t want to see the store be bought by a chain or someone out of state and go through a bunch of changes. Being able to retain the team and vendors was a big part of prepping for closing on the place.”

So far, Wynn has been true to his word, Green Jr. said.

“I’m still doing most of the ordering,” Green Jr. said. “They plan on keeping it the same. It’s the only way I know.”

As happy as he is to have things on firm ground, Green Jr. will miss having his dad and grandfather around full time.

“You just missed Dad about an hour ago,” he told a reporter. “I got here the other day and they were both here. It was odd. Felt like old times.”

Jerry Knight, 65, has worked at Green’s since 2005. His nickname is “Toe.” Years ago, he had a 1,900-pound pallet of fertilizer lowered from a forklift onto his toe. He is a denizen of the garden center, and absolutely loves to talk.

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The new owners were devoted customers of the store before buying it. Wynn, 37, recalls, as a customer, the loquacious Knight. “Toe would be talking to me even when I couldn’t hear him over the noise of the skid [forklift] operating,” he said, grinning. “He’ll talk to you even if you’re not listening.”

Knight, a frizzy-haired, tan, bespectacled rope of a man, says he’ll be at Green’s as long as they’ll have him. “I like the people. You’re not going to get me to stick around home for long. There ain’t no future in hanging around doing your own thing.”

The Greens built their reputation on an eclectic, vast inventory, and Wynn intends to capitalize on it.

“The Greens have maintained fantastic vendor relationships over the years,” Wynn said. “I can order the same bag of grass seed from two or three different vendors.”

The acquisition is good local business news for a town that needs some. No doubt some residents have feared that, worse than a chain taking over the business, the sizable property might simply sit and decay.

Wynn started a landscaping business 10 years ago and found success, helping him fund his contribution to the purchase. He bought his supplies at Green’s.

“The big thing for me was the knowledge,” Wynn said. “I received my education here. It always looked and smelled the same. A nostalgic thing when you come through the door. It’s pretty crazy to be sitting here in a completely different capacity.”

One, on occasion, might find Earl throwing bags of seed and operating a forklift, at least in the near future. Both his physical ability and mental acuity are rare. Wynn said he will take the classic “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it approach” to the store.

“This place has been here for decades,” he said. “I want to see it run the same way, with the same products and services for decades to come.”

Greg Stone covers business. He can be reached at 304-348-5124 or gstone@hdmediallc.com.

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