Farm Horizons, June 2012

New life for old Delano elevator

By Starrla Cray

Old grain elevators have gone by the wayside in some towns, but Delano definitely isn’t one of them.

“In many ways, the elevator is much more vibrant than it’s been in 50 years,” current owner Mike “Spike” Persons commented.

His business, Spike’s Feed, Seed & Pet Supply, breathed new life into the old Delano Feed Mill at 511 Railroad Avenue when it opened in April 2011. The handicapped-accessible shop is a convenient place to purchase high-quality horse feed, birdseed, grass seed, pet supplies, and more.

“We manufacture a little over 40 percent of what we sell,” Persons said.

The foundation for the original elevator was poured the summer of 1919. It was known as the Delano Farmers Cooperative Elevator until Sept. 11, 1924, when it was bought out by A.J. Styrbicky & Sons.

Delano resident Marvin Styrbicky, the grandson of A.J. Styrbicky, has heard stories about the days when farmers would form a long line to haul their grain to the mill.

“There were six or seven bars in town, and farmers would spend time there,” Marvin said. “Everybody got together.”

In the old days, horses were kept in a nearby barn to deliver coal to homes and businesses. Farm machinery was also sold at the elevator, Marvin said.

In 1962, the original structure was destroyed by fire. According to a March 28, 1962 article from The Delano Eagle, the flames were so high that residents of Watertown and Loretto could see them.

While the elevator burned, the Watertown and Delano fire departments did their best to protect neighboring properties. Fortunately, the elevator fell inward as it collapsed, making the flames easy to contain. At that time, the building contained a considerable amount of corn, soybeans, and other grain.

“It was a big mess. Area farmers helped clean it up,” said Marvin, who was not home at the time due to military service. By then, Marvin’s father had become the elevator’s owner.

The elevator was rebuilt from the ground up, and Marvin’s father continued to operate it until he passed away in 1967.

“I kind of took over, and ran it until Mike bought it,” Marvin said.

Persons’ involvement started in 1997.

“When we bought it, we were looking for a place to manufacture bird food,” Persons said, adding that the business also featured horse feed.

Manufacturing birdseed can be trickier than traditional grains, because the grain is very fine and small.

“Millet and safflower are almost like water,” Persons said. “It requires a little more precision, so we’ve had to evolve everything.”

Waconia Farm Supply purchased the business in 2003, but Persons retained ownership of the property. During that time, Waconia Farm Supply only did retail in Delano, with all manufacturing in Cologne.

A friend of Persons later bought JRK Seed (a birdseed company), and Persons sold him half the feedmill.

In December 2011, Waconia Farm Supply decided to move to other facilities, and was no longer planning to use the Delano site.

It was then that Persons decided to open Spikes Feed, Seed, & Pet Supply.

“The business has continued to grow,” Persons said. “The Delano elevator is part of a bigger picture now. We want to have four stores by this time next year.”

The second Spike’s location opened in Loretto May 2, with a 6,500-square-foot space off of Highway 55 and Hennepin County Road 19.

To learn more about Spike’s, call (763) 398-0316.

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