S.E. Smith Company – West Rutland, VT
Much of Chris Littler’s childhood was spent at the S.E. Smith Company feed store in West Rutland, Vermont, where he would try to haul the heaviest bags of grain that his 10-year-old muscles could manage.
“If a customer wanted a 25-pound bag, I could get it,” Littler recalls. “But I remember not being able to handle 50-pounds yet.”
His father, John Littler, had purchased the store in 1988 after becoming familiar with it as a Blue Seal dairy sales rep for many years before. S.E. Smith Company has been a landmark in Rutland County since 1880 when its namesake, Sylvester Ephraim Smith, first opened the store to mill grain and sell lumber and coal. In the early 1900s, he turned the store over to his daughter, Mabel Mead, who “ran the place with an iron fist” for roughly 40 years, according to longtime customers who remember her and still frequent the store today.
“If she told you to do it, you did it,” John Littler says. “End of story.”
Mabel Mead went on to sell the store to her son-in-law, who in 1944 decided to start offering Blue Seal Feed to customers. The move made S.E. Smith only the 7th independent dealership to do so. When John Littler purchased the store in 1988, he began the transition from “a feed store for farmers” to the current business that offers full lines of feed and supplies for farms, pets, poultry, horses and wild birds. He also added lawn and garden supplies to his inventory.
After graduating with a degree in communications, Chris Littler returned to West Rutland and became a partner in the business with his dad in 2013. This year marks 75 years for S.E. Smith as a Blue Seal dealer, and Littler says it’s still their biggest selling feed.
“We get a lot of people who come in here who won’t buy anything else,” he says. “They’ve got generations of loyalty to Blue Seal in their families, and it’s the only feed they’ll buy.”
His dad still works most days in the store with his youngest son. They employ three part-time and three full-time workers – “including the two of us.”
“It’s nice to have a family-run business that we can keep in the family as long as we can,” Littler says. “Over the years we’ve seen a lot of different stores in the area come and go, but we’ve been serving Rutland County for 140 years and hope to make it another 140 more.”