Deb Abraham Spalding
The Thurmont Feed Store has closed. This Catoctin Community legacy has come to an end.
The economy has made operating a small business more expensive to operate and that is forcing a higher price at the smaller shops in comparison to the national chains. This fact, paired with the owner’s desire to close, led to its end.
In its final days of business, Mary Royce, Joe Wormley, and Jacob Carbaugh worked until the doors closed on Saturday, March 20, 2021, the business’ final day.
A group of local farmers organized the Thurmont Cooperative, Inc. in 1935 to meet the needs of the Catoctin area’s farmers and community. They came together to proudly provide agricultural feed, seed, supplies, and delivery in the Catoctin area.
Multi-generations of customers, employees, and farmers patronized, served, and volunteered at the Thurmont Co-op. For example, four generations of the Myers Family served on the Thurmont Cooperative’s Board of Directors since it was founded. They were Henry Myers, Charles F. Myers, C. Rodman Myers, and Robert Myers. Rodman Myers remarked, “After the Great Depression in the early 1930s, it was an extraordinary accomplishment for area farmers to buy stock forming the Thurmont Cooperative, Inc. After being sold to Hoke Mills, Inc., a cash distribution was made to all Thurmont Cooperative stockholders.”
While families in the Catoctin area’s agriculture community have been a long-standing part of the co-op’s operation, the business served local residents for pet food, grass seed, fertilizer, bird seed, and other supplies. The Thurmont Co-op provided the Thurmont & Emmitsburg Community Show’s Grand Champion Pet Show winner with a gift certificate, and pet show exhibitors received bags of donated pet food.
In 2007, the Thurmont Cooperative’s board of directors held a stockholder’s meeting, where the board of directors recommended—and the stockholders voted in favor—to sell the Thurmont Cooperative to Hoke Mills, Inc. The Hoke Mills family had been working in the grain and animal feed business for many years with an Abbottstown, Pennsylvania, mill purchased in 1946 and a York, Pennsylvania, mill purchased in 1988. Hoke Mills had been a feed mix supplier to the co-op after a January 2006 fire that destroyed the Thurmont Cooperative’s milling facility.
When Hoke Mills opened the former Thurmont Cooperative as the Thurmont Feed Store, Ronald Hoke of Hoke Mills renovated the former store into a larger and more customer-friendly store with a showroom and a permanent office area. The product base was expanded to include many types of pet foods and new popular feed mixes.
Several long-time co-op employees stayed through the ownership transition including Mary Ann (Harbaugh) Sharer (who passed away in 2018), Joe Wormley, and Co-op Manager Jerry Lillich. Then-manager Lillich said, “Not one day of service was interrupted in the transition.”
Former co-op/feed store managers included D.S. Weybright, Ralph Zimmerman, Dennis Trout, Eddie Horman, Kevin Donnelly, and Jerry Lillich.
Mary Ann Sharer and Joe Wormley each worked at the co-op/feed store for over 50 years. Sharer was loved by all as she worked as the cashier and managed the office. Wormley started working at the co-op as a young man. He felt it was a good change from the work he was doing at the nearby shoe factory. For several years, he ran the co-op’s bulk feed truck, delivering to farms. After the transition in ownership, he still delivered the product to customers, but the distance was shorter and on foot to the dock.
It was good work for Wormley. He liked it. He liked the customers and his co-workers. He fondly recalls his time spent with co-workers, John Ogle, Bill Smith, Clarence Harbaugh, Calvin Burrier, Sam Andrews, Bill Eyler, and Larry Smith, as well as farmers, Rodman Myers, Dallas McNair, and Mehrle Ramsburg Jr., and many, many other wonderful people.
Wormley said, “It’s been an honor to serve some good people. I got to be friends with a lot of them.”
“We don’t really want to see it go. We really enjoy the customers. We are family,” Royce said the week before the store’s closing.
A legacy agriculture business, which was a big part of our community, is forever part of the Catoctin area’s history.
Thurmont Feed Store employees pictured one week before closing: (from left) Mary Royce, Joe Wormley, and Jacob Carbaugh.
Cover Photo by Deb Abraham Spalding
Thurmont Cooperative’s 1940 Board of Directors
Pictured from left are Charles F. Myers, Mehrle Ramsburg, Sr., Vernon Fisher, Ben Rosenstock—Attorney, Charlie Bollinger, Ernest Shriver, D. S. (Daniel Sayler) Weybright, Elizabeth Weddle—Secretary, Russell Fisher, John Baumgardner, Lloyd Wilhide, and Charlie Lewis.
Thurmont Cooperative’s 1978 Staff
Pictured: (Left, top to bottom) Mary Ann Sharrer, Ralph Zimmerman-Manager, David Harbaugh, and Clarence Harbaugh; (Right side, top to bottom) Judy Dewees, Ruth Ann Green, Bill Smith , Joe Wormley, and Calvin Burrier.
Thurmont Cooperative’s 1990 Co-op Board of Directors
Pictured from left are: (back row) Richard Calimer, Rodman Myers, Jeff Wivell, Joe Topper, Curtis Baughman, Henry Barton, Jerry Lillich—Manager; (front row) Paul Baumgardner, Joe Wivell, Mary Ann Sharer, Bobby Black, and Dennis Mathias.
Thurmont Cooperative’s 1971 Board of Directors
Pictured from left are: (bottom row) Dallas McNair, Alvie Weller, Harry Black, Robert Ogle, and Raymond Keilholtz; (top row) Ross Stull, Lester Bittner, Rodman Myers, Mehrle Ramsburg Jr., and Ralph Zimmerman (manager).