River City Six – Steve Probst
Meet Steve Probst, co-owner of Northwest Feed & Grain Co. (www.northwest-feed.com)
Tell us a little about your business.
Northwest Feed & Grain Co. is a diverse provider of animal feeds, animal supplies, lawn and garden products, animal bedding products, livestock equipment and outdoor items.
How did the business get its start?
Our exact location at 8625 Military Rd. has been in operation since the 1940s. Prior to that it used to be 8 miles from Omaha and was a feed and grain operation, as well as supplying coal and some lumber for local farmers. Our family got involved in the business in 1978 and has acquired ownership over time.
What is the most unique or interesting thing about your business that many people probably don’t know?
Most people aren’t aware of the diversity of animal feeds we provide and the logistics of our operations. We actually have two locations; there’s Northwest Feed & Grain in Omaha and we have another location in Blair, NE, WashCo Feed & Supply. The two locations are vastly different. Our Omaha location is more of a retail store, whereas our location in Blair is more on the commercial side. We deliver most of the feed from our Blair location directly out to farmer-feeder operations.
What types of customers do you typically serve?
One of our most high-profile clients is the Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo & Aquarium. We provide them with everything from elephant supplements to primate diets, hoof stock diets, specialized diets for the flamingos and kangaroos/wallabies, and at least 20-30 more items for various species of exotic animals in the care of the Zoo. We are also one of the area’s larger providers of equine feeds and serve many cow/calf producers as well as feed yards raising cattle. As for our Omaha location specifically, pet business is the majority of what we do there. We’ve seen a big increase in customers who are raising poultry in their backyards; people really like having the ability to raise their own animals and having access to farm-fresh eggs without needing to have a farming operation. Then there are acreage owners raising sheep, goats, pigs, calves, etc. We actually do business with quite a few wild bird enthusiasts too, as feeding them and birdwatching has become a popular hobby.
What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced professionally?
One of the biggest challenges was being a young person in the business back in the early 80s and acquiring financing and operating capital to grow our business over the years.
What has been your most important achievement professionally?
Continuing to successfully operate a family-owned business with all of the challenges that both a family business and just a business itself bring. With husbands, wives, and a son working together as family and business partners, and never completely getting away from your work, it can be a challenge. I believe we have done a great job of balancing the combination of the two.
Tell us a little about your family.
My wife Diane and I, and my son Joe and his wife Amber, are the owners of our business. We also have two daughters, Jenni and Jill, sons-in-law Chris and Sam, and are the proud grandparents of six grandchildren: Lena, Ben, Max, Alex, Sam, and Weston. They all live in the Omaha area.
What are you the most proud of?
That would definitely be my family. Parents, kids, and grandkids! Most of everything that we are and do has revolved around our business, and it has taken a lot of hard work and sacrifice to make it happen, so I’m extremely proud of our accomplishments in running a successful business too.
If our readers would like to contact you, how should they do so?
Phone: (402) 571-0305; Website: www.northwest-feed.com.