Make us your home page

Rural King hopes to wow customers with its first Florida store

SPRING HILL — Rural King, which opens its first Florida store on Monday along busy Commercial Way, aims not only to equip and clothe local farmers, but those who tend a lawn, feed their pets and feathered fly-ins, make their own home repairs or ply skills in a hobby or commercial workshop.

The goal for first-time visitors to Rural King, says store manager Jeff Hixon, is "the wow effect."

"When people walk around," Hixon said, "it's, 'Wow, we never knew you had these things.' "

Not just the product lines, said regional manager Kyle Banks. "It's customer service we pride ourselves on," he said.

And if prices aren't always the lowest around, Banks said, they are competitive for hard-to-get goods.

Billing itself since 1960 as "America's Farm and Home Store," the family-owned Rural King chain owns and operates 68 stores in eight states, said president Alex Melvin from the company's corporate office in Mattoon, Ill. Offerings target working needs rather than niceties and the fashionable.

Melvin and the local managers say they have tweaked the Spring Hill store's offerings for Florida — more air-conditioner coolant, more saltwater than freshwater fishing gear, not much in the heating department or cold weather wear.

Melvin expects that one popular item when the store opens will be its supply of ammunition, "a quarter-million dollars worth," he said of a product that has been in short supply around the United States in recent months.

On a store walk-through last week, Hixon noted, too, hulking closet-sized gun safes, adding, "Eventually, we will have guns."

Nearby, Hixon gestured to "a whole aisle of camping supplies."

Banks pointed to "tons of pet food," explaining: "We've definitely got a lot of pet customers around here."

A few steps farther they take note of "the most birdseed of anybody. A lot of our customers love birds."

And, Hixon pointed out, "You'd be surprised with the amount of tools we have. Basically, it's a mini-hardware store within our store."

Walking on, shoppers will find automotive supplies; plumbing units; tractor parts; tires for lawn mowers, golf carts and on-road vehicles; and sturdy and spiffy truck bed boxes.

"We probably have the best price on batteries around," Banks said, mentioning batteries for watercraft, trucks, even hearing aids.

There's outdoor equipment of all sorts and an outdoor garden area. Also available for the outdoors are rabbits from a local breeder; chicks will be available come cooler weather.

For indoors or out, work clothes occupy a large space in the store space.

About 80 part-time and full-time employees have been hired from the local workforce.

Said one of them, apparel worker Pam Morton, 59, of Spring Hill: "They've hired a large amount of older people. That was excellent. We're from the generation of hard workers."

Banks, 25, a Rural King transplant from Charleston, Ill., said the hires range from age 18 to 73. Many have retail experience; some are specialists in their fields. He mentioned the nursery manager, a 30-year gardener, and a former veterinary technician in the pet food department.

Hixon, 53, has relocated to Hernando from Rural King's Jefferson, Ind., store.

Both Banks and Hixon have moved with their wives to Spring Hill.

The Rural King site housed a Kmart until about 10 years ago and has sat empty since. Purchased for $1.6 million, the building remodeling was costly, Melvin said. It had been gutted of air-conditioning, copper and wiring, he said.

As they step inside, customers will see an open, no-frills store with spacious aisles, bright lighting and a practical concrete floor.

Free coffee and popcorn are offered.

Melvin said the company is planning to open its second store in Florida in January, in Leesburg.

Beth Gray can be reached at

. If you go

Rural King

The store bills itself as "America's Farm and Home Store"

Where: 2468 Commercial Way, Spring Hill

When: 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily

Information: (352) 686-1064;

Rural King hopes to wow customers with its first Florida store 08/15/13 [Last modified: Thursday, August 22, 2013 11:27am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Last steel beam marks construction milestone for Tom and Mary James' museum


    ST. PETERSBURG — Tom and Mary James on Wednesday signed their names to the last steel beam framing the 105-ton stone mesa that will be built at the entrance of the museum that bears their name: the James Museum of Western and Wildlife Art.

    The topping-out ceremony of the James Museum of Western & Wildlife Art was held Wednesday morning in downtown St. Petersburg. Mary James (from left), husband Tom and Mayor Rick Kriseman signed the final beam before it was put into place. When finished, the $55 million museum at 100 Central Ave. will hold up to 500 pieces of the couple's 3,000-piece art collection. [Courtesy of James Museum of Western & Wildlife Art]
  2. Heights Public Market to host two Tampa Bay food trucks


    TAMPA — The Heights Public Market announced the first two food trucks for its "rotating stall," which will feature new restaurants every four months. Surf and Turf and Empamamas will be rolled out first.

    Heights Public Market is opening this summer inside the Tampa Armature Works building.
[SKIP O'ROURKE   |   Times file photo]

  3. Author Randy Wayne White could open St. Pete's biggest restaurant on the pier

    Food & Dining

    ST. PETERSBURG — The story begins with Yucatan shrimp.

    St. Petersburg Deputy Mayor Kanika Tomalin, pilot Mark Futch, Boca Grande, St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman, and author and businessman Randy Wayne White,  Sanibel, exit a Maule Super Rocket seaplane after taking a fight around Tampa Bay off the St. Petersburg waterfront, 6/28/17.  White and his business partners are in negotiations with the City of St. Petersburg to build a fourth Doc Ford's Rum Bar & Grille on the approach to the St. Petersburg Pier with a second event space on the pier according to White. The group met near Spa Beach after a ground breaking ceremony for the new pier. "We want to have our business open by the time the pier opens," said White. Other Dr. Ford restaurants are located on Sanibel, Captiva and Ft. Myers Beach. SCOTT KEELER   |   Times
  4. Guilty plea for WellCare Health Plans former counsel Thaddeus Bereday


    Former WellCare Health Plans general counsel Thaddeus M.S. Bereday pleaded guilty to one count of making a false statement to the Florida Medicaid program, and faces a maximum penalty of five years in federal prison. A sentencing date has not yet been set, acting U.S. Attorney W. Stephen Muldrow of the Middle District …

    WellCare Health Plans former general counsel Thaddeus M.S. Bereday, pleaded guilty to one count of making a false statement to the Florida Medicaid program, and faces a maximum penalty of five years in federal prison. A sentencing date has not yet been set, acting U.S. Attorney W. Stephen Muldrow of the Middle District of Florida stated Wednesday. [LinkedIn handout]
  5. DOT shows alternatives to former Tampa Bay Express toll lanes


    TAMPA — State transportation officials are evaluating at least a half-dozen alternatives to the controversial Tampa Bay interstate plan that they will workshop with the community over the next 18 months.

    Florida Department of Transportation consultant Brad Flom explains potential alternatives to adding toll lanes to Interstate 275 during a meeting Wednesday at the DOT’s Tampa office. Flom presented seven diagrams, all of which swapped toll lanes for transit, such as light rail or express bus, in the I-275 corridor from downtown Tampa to Bearss Avenue.