Celebrating 45 years of service in Salem, New Hampshire
Kelly Clark’s great-grandfather, Florence Burke, opened Dodge Grain in 1926, primarily as a small poultry feed store serving the Methuen, Massachusetts area. The store expanded, relocated to Salem, New Hampshire and eventually began carrying feed for every species in the barn – but the business has never left the Burke family’s ownership.
“We are a fourth-generation family feed store,” Kelly says. “You don’t find that very often these days.”
When Florence Burke passed away, Kelly’s grandfather left college in California to take over the store. He was joined by a great uncle and, eventually, Kelly’s father Frank and his brother, Terry, who both still run the day-to-day operations. As the store’s business grew, the Burkes began catering to the equine market – and the many race tracks nearby. Initially they were buying Blue Seal feed from another dealer, but because they were buying so much of it, Kelly says a representative from the company suggested Dodge Grain should sell it too.
“It expanded very quickly,” Kelly says, noting that the store is celebrating its 45th year as a Blue Seal dealer this year. “The majority of our business today is horse feed. That’s really what we specialize in. And Blue Seal has always been our biggest vendor of all. People want their Blue Seal. It’s always been a really well-respected company.”
For her part in the business, Kelly left a radio broadcasting job to help her dad, Frank, when he fell ill with cancer 13 years ago. It was also around that time when many of the area’s race tracks began to close as the racing industry began to decline. By then Frank Burke had developed the retail showroom that Dodge Grain has now, and had added new departments to the store such as caged and wild bird feed and other supplies. But Kelly knew they would have to continue to evolve and reinvent their business plans to make up for the race track losses.
“Watching the tracks close and taking that hit was difficult,” she recalls. “We had to redesign what we were doing. So we started to push the pedal to cater to equestrian centers, university equestrian teams, backyard farms, canine units and mounted police units. It’s what I’ve been focused on a lot, just developing relationships so we can grow that business.”
Today, Dodge Grain’s store motto is “We Feed the Barn” – a statement that Kelly says captures the family company’s journey over the last 95 years. As her dad and uncle move closer toward retirement, Kelly plans to continue to help drive the store’s business, along with her brother, Frank Burke III, and other relatives who have worked at Dodge Grain for most of their lives.
“It’s a true born-and-raised feed company,” Kelly says. “We work hard, but our hearts work harder to keep the family part of the family business alive.”