Feed business to buy former rival's store R. D. Bowman to sign deal this week for Southern States site

October 06, 1997|By Donna R. Engle | Donna R. Engle,SUN STAFF

Westminster feed sales business R. D. Bowman & Sons Inc. is scheduled to sign a contract this week to buy a nearby vacant store owned by its former rival Southern States Cooperative.

Cooperative members voted in December to close the Westminster store after years of losses and increasing debts.

The 62-year-old store at Englar and John streets competed with the family-owned Bowman store across Englar Road for 33 years after founder Ralph D. Bowman moved his store from Union Mills to Westminster.

Both stores sold feed, pet supplies and lawn and garden items.

"My one spin on the whole situation is that I'm thrilled to death that someone other than myself has enough confidence in agriculture to make an investment like the Bowmans are making there with the Southern States facility," said Melvin E. Baile Jr., a member of the cooperative's board of directors.

Some co-op members saw the store's closing last winter as an ominous sign for the future of agriculture in Carroll County.

Dirk Bowman, who owns R. D. Bowman with his brother Dale and sister Dawn DeVivo, said they plan to move their lawn and garden center from a building adjacent to the feed sales store to the 3-acre Southern States property.

They also plan to move a private label feed-bagging operation from Taneytown to Westminster.

Dirk Bowman declined to discuss the sale price.

He said the expansion is the first major project of its kind for the family business since the move to Westminster in 1963. He said the owners aren't sure how they will use the existing lawn and garden center or how soon they will be able to open on the Southern States property.

"We'd like to be able to have our spring season there, but I don't know if that will come together in time," Bowman said. He said the owners plan renovations to the Southern States building.

The sale won't bring checks in the mail to the Westminster cooperative's 341 members, but it does have a benefit, said Jim McCarron, Southern States district manager.

"More equity will come into the co-op, and they'll be in better financial shape than before," McCarron said.

He said the distribution of assets will await the sale of two other Westminster cooperative properties: a fertilizer plant on Railroad Avenue and a closed feed store in Union Bridge.

Trustees appointed by cooperative members to handle the liquidation will decide how to distribute the assets, McCarron said.

Clearing expenses

McCarron said fixed expenses such as insurance on co-op properties will be paid before proceeds from the sale of the properties are sent to individual members.

The Westminster co-op closed after failing to make a profit since 1990.

It reported a loss of $346,000 in 1994, $188,000 in 1995 and $100,000 last year.

No job loss seen

R. D. Bowman's plan to move the private label feed bagging from Taneytown won't cost any jobs, Dirk Bowman said.

Two employees who do the bagging will transfer to Westminster.

The Bowman family business began when Ralph D. Bowman opened a mom-and-pop grocery store in Union Mills in 1928.

Sons join business

He was joined in the business by his sons Robert and Edward, and in 1954 incorporated as R. D. Bowman & Sons.

He moved the business to Westminster when the city's Purina franchise became available, sold Purina feeds and built a mill for grinding and mixing feed.

Pub Date: 10/06/97

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