Sam’s Downtown Feed serves San Jose pets and livestock

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Rooted in agriculture and old-school customer service, Sam’s Downtown Feed & Pet Supply has been serving San Jose for over 30 years.

Promoted as “the anteater that feeds zebras,” the store supplies livestock and chicken feed, beekeeping supplies, grain, hay and animal feed. In addition to feeding llamas, alpacas and flamingos, it also sells pet food and supplies for dogs, cats, rats, rabbits and birds.

The 66-year-old owner, Sam Blackford, owns the store at 759 W. San Carlos St. It operates from a 100-year-old building at the address. Blackford said the family environment and the health of feed, grain and livestock brought him joy, while the sweet scents brought back memories of his feed mill days.

“It takes me back,” San José told Spotlight. “We’re closed on Sundays. When I open the door on Monday morning, I love the aroma. People of my generation and older say they haven’t tasted this scent since they were kids.”

Sam Blackford, owner of Sam’s Downtown Feed & Pet Supply, has been providing animal feed and supplies for over 30 years. Lorraine Gabbert’s photo.

Blackford said it’s the people, the atmosphere, and the deep-rooted farming history that make the work valuable. He loves children and gives them coloring pages when they visit the shop. He and his wife, Lisa, have two children and five grandchildren.

“Children and animals often go together,” he said. “It warms my heart when a child arrives with a new puppy or bunny rabbit.”

Sam’s Downtown Feed & Pet Supply preserves Santa Clara County’s agricultural history. Lorraine Gabbert’s photo.

family business

Blackford’s great-grandfather came to San Jose from Pennsylvania in 1860 and was locally known for his apricot and prune orchards. The family’s surname graces an elementary school, high school, and local streets. Blackford worked at her father Walter’s feed mill and remembers visiting Emma Prusch Farm Park when she was a dairy. Today, the farm park and Happy Hollow Park & ​​Zoo are Blackford’s clients.

But Blackford wasn’t always involved in this line of business. After attending Willow Glen High School and West Valley College, he worked as a DJ at a local radio station and The Circle Star Theatre, a former dinner club in San Carlos. He worked on CBS in Los Angeles before returning to radio in the Bay Area.

Her life changed when she and her cousin, Conrad Leedom, took a job at the James Grain Depot. They loved working in agriculture and partnered to open Sam’s Downtown Feed & Pet Supply in 1986.

Now the sweet scent of hay, an old farm truck and a horse sculpture outside the store reminds us of a much kinder world before the pandemic.

The post-pandemic environment has caused supply chain problems, including issues with oyster shell deliveries from Tomales Bay, canned pet food and livestock equipment from overseas, and grain products and fertilizer from Ukraine. Also, many of Blackford’s straw suppliers can’t find enough water to grow crops.

“This is very frustrating,” Blackford said. “We need to compromise and disappoint customers a bit. This is character building.”

But he perseveres thanks to the uniqueness of his day-to-day life, where he runs an old-fashioned feed store.

The forage store provides a wide variety of hay, rice straw, oats, alfalfa and grass. Lorraine Gabbert’s photo.

Employee Paul Lavrischeff said people depend on the store’s wide selection of hay and fodder. The store carries rice straw for chicken nests and sweet-smelling clover straw for goats, turtles, rabbits and horses. People also buy grass and oats for horses and alfalfa and oat straw for cows.

“It’s good to see,” Lavrischeff told San José Spotlight. “It makes you feel like you are part of the community.”

Customer Sue Hodge said Sam’s Downtown Feed had bird food that she couldn’t find anywhere else. Lorraine Gabbert’s photo.

For customers, a trip down bait and memory lane they can’t find elsewhere is the store’s purpose.

Longtime client Sue Hodge appreciates a variety of seed boxes for wild and domesticated birds. She feeds pigeons, pigeons and zebra finches she.

“Even big farms have to come here because there’s nowhere else to go,” San José told Spotlight. “I would be appalled if it shuts down or retires.”

Contact Lorraine Gabbert. [email protected].

Sam’s Downtown Feed & Pet Supply keeps customers coming back

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