FARM feeds manufacturer HJ Lea Oakes is inviting animal lovers to enjoy a taste of life down on the farm after opening a new store at Endon.
The family firm, which has been in operation since the 17th century, took over the former A & F Williamson animal feeds milling business 18 months ago, securing jobs and the future of the Gratton Lane site, just off the A53, which is visited by farmers from across Staffordshire.
Now a further investment in the site has seen a huge barn converted into a HJ Lea Oakes Pet Food Superstore, adding to its portfolio of shops in Aston, near Nantwich, Wheelock near Sandbach, and Congleton.
Based at Gate House Farm, the shop stocks food for all manner of pets – from dogs and cats to horses, hamsters, birds, fish and reptiles.
It remains a collection point for farmers buying HJ Lea Oakes farm feeds, which the Cheshire-based firm began milling in Swettenham in 1675.
Edward Lea, the 15th generation of the Lea family, said: “The acquisition of A&F Williamson was our first expansion into Staffordshire and we have received a warm welcome from the farming community.
“It brought together two independent, family-owned firms, sharing a similar history with deep roots in local agriculture.
“We’re pleased to say that union has flourished and we hope to create further job opportunities in the countryside as the business grows.”
The Lea family have placed Michael Williamson, of the former A&F Williamson business, at the helm of the Endon operation. Jobs have been also been secured for delivery drivers and administration staff.
Mr Williamson, whose great grandfather took over Gate House Farm in 1905, said: “Opening a shop to the general public was a natural progression of the business and represents a substantial investment, but already word is getting round and we are meeting new customers.
“In terms of the general public, it might just be a bag of feed for their dog or horse, but they are coming back which is important.
“Both families have prided themselves on service and quality for many generations and that shows when people recommend us to their friends. It’s a new era for Gate House Farm and one I am glad to be part of.”
HJ Lea Oakes is perhaps the oldest independent animal feed manufacturer in Britain, with a lineage dating back to Swettenham Mill in 1675 where the Lea family began milling feeds to supply the Cheshire farming community.
Centuries later, it has expanded and developed, and continues to supply the agricultural community with a vast range of quality feeds across the North West, the Midlands and Wales.
The HJ Lea Oakes fleet of specialpurpose trucks can be spotted daily delivering hundreds of thousands of tons of quality feeds to the region’s farmers, that remain the backbone of the UK’s food suppliers.
It also operates Pet Food Superstores and sells its own-brand dog and cat food, Nurtura, and Equerry for horses and ponies, while remaining at the forefront of organic farming methods, with its DEFRA-accredited Congleton base being one of few dedicated organic mills in the region.