From the oldest to the newest, businesses in the St. Clair Township/Calcutta area in southern Columbiana County seem to be faring well despite setbacks from the pandemic and inflation, according to three business leaders here. What follows are their stories.
fulfilling farming needs
For the past 71 years, the Smith family has provided the Calcutta area with everything it needs to care for its livestock, domestic pets, wildlife, gardens, and home heating needs. And there are no plans to change that, according to manager Don Smith, grandson of the founder.
Smith says his grandfather sold feed supplies from his garage across from the current location at 14880 East Liverpool Road when he began building the mill during the “big snow” of 1950.
The feed mill opened in 1951 with just one building.
Then, in 1970-71, the company expanded to sell home heating oil, and it constructed the other buildings that cluster around the mill.
The office also was built in 1971 and today includes a showroom of goods where customers can purchase ready-made pet food and other pet needs, bird seed and feeders, a host of gardening supplies and related items.
Livestock feed for horses, cattle and pigs is still ground and mixed in the mill.
Smith says mixing bird seed has “gotten to be a pretty big part” of the family business and confirmed that the sale of bird seed picked up somewhat with the pandemic possibly because more people stayed home and watched birds.
As with most operations, the farm supply business has seen an increase in costs. Smith says the cost of shipping and diesel fuel, grass seed and heating oil have risen dramatically.
The cost of grass seed, for example, has doubled because of droughts in the Northwest, he says.
“There’s not a lot you can do about it,” Smith says. “You’re limited to what the cost is. You still have to have a margin.”
Nevertheless, he says, “Business has been good. It’s probably down a little because of the increase in prices. But there’s nothing that hasn’t gone up.”
He says people are buying less because of the higher prices.
“Where people might have bought a couple of pigs to raise and butcher, they might not do that now,” Smith says, pointing out that meat processing operations are also behind right now.
At the same time, his company has seen some increase in customers purchasing supplies for backyard chickens they use to produce eggs, which, he says, started with the pandemic and continues with the bird flu and rumors of a possible meat shortage.
“Actually, people don’t take as much advantage of that as they should. You can raise a day-old chick to a seven-pound broiler in seven to eight weeks,” Smith says.
With six full-time and two part-time employees, the company intends to remain family owned and Smith says there are no plans to expand or change any operations.
committed to quality
After retiring in 2019 from 20 years in retail, Erin Moeller began looking for a business to buy. On April 19, she purchased and re-opened Beresford’s Craft Meat & Deli in Dunham’s Plaza, 15765 State Route 170 in Calcutta.
“Business is booming,” Moeller says about the fast-paced business where she and her employees greet customers with smiles, ask their names and are quick to offer advice on how to use the meats and other items offered in the well-stocked display cases.
“I’ve lived all over the country and in really big cities. Food is really an important part of our family, having dinners, feeding the family. But when you get to Columbiana County, it’s hard to find good quality ingredients that are readily accessible,” Moeller says.
While she was initially looking in Lisbon to open up shop, Moeller was told Beresford’s Meats was for sale. She stopped in to look and was immediately hooked.
“It was in great shape. It was a great location, something worth considering. And I immediately saw it as a great opportunity, something worth taking a risk for. This provides a starting point to build a high-quality location,” she says.
While other businesses offer the food basics, it is often difficult to find good ingredients in the area, she says.
“If you want pasta sauce and spaghetti, we’ve got you covered in Calcutta. But some other things would be hard to find here,” she says.
Moeller’s original plan was to keep the shop as it was, then realized she could build something not available in the immediate area.
“There are butchers, but there is not a butcher shop that cuts to order within 25 miles,” Moeller says.
Her initial plan was also to eliminate the deli that existed under the previous ownership. She then decided to replace it with high-end Boar’s Head deli meats, which met with some resistance from her business advisers.
“People kept saying, ‘Don’t do it. [Customers] want the cheapest deli meat possible.’ “Now we’re pulling in people from Beaver and Toronto for that Boar’s Head deli and also for our meat selection and our online presence,” she says.
Like all businesses, Moeller must contend with rising costs.
“Prices rose and kept rising. When I took over, the rapid rise was still happening. But I made a commitment April 19 that we were not going to raise the price of ground chuck, because that was such a staple for this store, unless absolutely forced to.”
Ground chuck was selling for $3.79 per pound when she opened. Even though at one point she paid that much herself for the meat and was losing money on its resale, the price remained the same for customers.
“We’re growing rapidly,” Moeller says. “As soon as we think we have it figured out, we get busier. We’ve pulled in a lot of partners.”
The shop soon will begin online ordering and it has partnered with EZ Fresh Meals in Steubenville to offer high-end, healthful, quality ready-to-eat meals specifically packed for individuals. It has also partnered with some specialized bakeries.
“We love to partner with other people because we have a niche: fresh meat. And it’s quality meat, and fresh to order deli meat,” Moeller says.
For the holidays, the shop plans to partner with Calcutta Nutrition for a holiday tasting of items customers can preorder for Christmas, such as crown roast, prime rib or smoked rack of pork. The orders can be ordered ready-to-eat or ready-to-cook.
She also would like to add a high-end cheese corner. “Wine is on the table for us,” she adds.
Moeller says she also is looking for a place to expand along the Calcutta business strip.
Timeless Creations, 14859 East Liverpool Road, has done well despite the pandemic and escalating costs, according to Penny McDaniels, who owns the store along with her husband Mark.
Timeless Creations opened 13 years ago next to her home. The craft and consignment shop offers a variety of hand-crafted home decorations, candles, gift items and floral arrangements.
While many businesses have experienced lower sales volume in the past year, “We did better,” McDaniels says.
“Last year was phenomenal. The year before we did OK. [The pandemic] closed us for two months so we had to make up for that. I doubt we ever made it up. But we carried on.”
The store consistently has 25 vendors who provide new inventory on a seasonal basis.
“We change every season. We keep trying to get new things in here,” McDaniels says.
Timeless Creations closes each July and reopens for the fall season.
“We have a routine and we haven’t varied from it in 13 years,” she says.
The only change the business has made in relation to the pandemic is making its open houses weeklong instead of weekends.
“This avoids crowding customers into the shop over a two-day period. It’s been well-received by customers and makes parking easier,” Daniels says.
“All in all, we just keep trying to please people. You know, you have to please the people and I’d say 90% of our customers are very easy to please. We’re like a family and most of our crafters feel the same way. At least 10 of our crafters have been here 13 years,” McDaniels says.
Pictured at top: Timeless Creations on East Liverpool Road outside Calcutta offers a variety of hand-crafted home decorations, floral arrangements and gift items.