Small business to pay it forward on shopping Saturday

The owners of Saukville Feeds know what it takes to run a small operation, so on day for shopping locally they will offer space for vendors to sell their wares

THE CREW AT SAUKVILLE Feed Supplies includes (from left) Adam Debroux, Alex Dodge, Emily Kluever and Lisa Laatsch, who with her brother Nick owns the business. Saukville Feeds is the last feed mill in a county that once had a mill in every community. Photo by Sam Arendt


Ozaukee Press staff

Saukville Feeds is giving other small businesses a holiday boost during its Christmas market on Nov. 26.

The Saukville business at 313 W. Church St. is providing space for entrepreneurs who don’t have a storefront to sell their wares during the Small Business Saturday market.

“I always try to do something on Small Business Saturday. This year, I thought I’d like to promote other small businesses that don’t have a face in the community,” Lisa Laatsch, who owns Saukville Feeds with her brother Nick, said. “Anybody who doesn’t have a store is welcome.

“We want to help get people known, to get their name out there.”

The list of vendors encompasses a variety of items, from honey to homemade washcloths and towels to jewelry. A wood carver and soapmaker are among the vendors, and the list goes on.

“I’m excited about this event. We even have a little two-man band that will be playing and a coffee cart with doughnuts and cookies,” Laatsch said. “It just ballooned.”

The holiday market will be in the warehouse at Saukville Feeds. A raffle held in conjunction with the market will offer items donated by county businesses, with proceeds going to Ozaukee County 4-H scholarships.

The fact that Saukville Feeds is promoting other area entrepreneurs is due in no small part to the fact that Laatsch and her brother know what it takes to run a small business.

Saukville Feeds is the last working feed mill in a county where every town used to have one.

The mill was started by Fred and Joan Laatsch — Lisa and Nick’s parents — in 1958.

“My dad was a one-man show,” Laatsch said. “He would take the order, mix it, bag it, deliver it and bill it.”

Through the years, the business grew.  In 1987, Saukville Feeds purchased the Port Feed Mill, which the family ran until Fred died in 2000.

The dwindling number of farms in the county, and the fact that farms are getting significantly larger has contributed to the demise of most mills.

“The big guys are big and order direct,” Laatsch said, or they seek services from larger mills and co-operatives.

It’s also caused Saukville Feeds to shift its focus, she said, noting that while the mill still serves some farmers, their base is now nonagricultural customers.

“People really take care of their animals,” Laatsch said.

“We try to specialize in taking care of small animal needs. We focus on the small customer — small farms, hobby farms.”

The mill can mix feed to serve all needs, she said.

“We can make you any kind of feed you need for horses, sheep, pigs,” she said, as well as goat and cat foods.

“There’s a lot of barn cats,” she said.

Nick noted that the ability to customize feed to a customer’s needs is important, adding they work with a nutritionist to ensure animals get what they need.

“You go to the big-box stores, tell them my horse needs so many calories, they’ll say, ‘Huh?’” he said.

The mill delivers, but customers can also call ahead and the mill will create their feed, Lisa Laatsch said, noting it will be ready to be loaded into their vehicle when they arrive.

“That’s why 99% of the people come here — we take care of them,” her brother said.

The mill also makes its own birdseed using a recipe her father purchased decades ago from a mill in Slinger.

“We sell one to two tons a week,” Laatsch said.

Laatsch incorporated a store into the mill decades ago, offering a selection of items such as bird feeders, bird baths, birdhouses, suet, dog snacks and other items, such as farm fresh eggs provided by employee Emily Kluever.

“That’s the only human food we sell,” Laatsch said.

The store has everything needed to raise chickens, and in spring it offers chicks.

“The chicken side has exploded,” Laatsch said, noting this year she sold 250 chicks, “We have everything a baby chick needs.”

The store, she noted, was her longtime dream.

“Back in the day, my dad didn’t want me to have a store,” Laatsch said. “I always wanted a store. It’s a big part of our business. A lot of stuff moves out of the store.”

Kluever, she added, has taken the shop “to the next level,” updating it and offering seasonal items.

The mill survives, Laatsch said, by offering things no one else has and by providing service that isn’t found elsewhere.

“We care about our customers,” she said. “They’ve come here for years. They’re our friends.

“Sometimes I feel like a bar. We know their personal lives. People just spill their guts. We get into pretty deep conversations.”

Their customer base is primarily Ozaukee County, but they also draw people from Milwaukee and Sheboygan counties.

The business provides many services not traditionally associated with a mill. It sells fish food for people’s ponds, provides everything from grass seed to fertilizer for landscapers and sells deicing and solar salts.

It provides sawdust for Blau’s Saukville Meats and salt for Ewig Bros. in Port Washington.

It also serves as a transfer site for Veolia, which recycles fluorescent light bulbs. The company drops off loads of crushed light bulbs, which are later picked up and taken to Minnesota, where they are ground even finer and used in sandblasting.

“You have to change with the times,” Nick Laatsch said. “Things are so different. All those little farms are gone.”



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Ozaukee Press

Wisconsin’s largest paid circulation community weekly newspaper. Serving Port Washington, Saukville, Grafton, Fredonia, Belgium, as well as Ozaukee County government. Locally owned and printed in Port Washington, Wisconsin.

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Port Washington, WI 53074
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