Mackey's was founded in 1968 by Jim & Betty Mackey. Today, Mackey's welcomes you to our stores with the enthusiasm of a third generation and the collaboration of a hardworking team. Together, we strive to bring you genuine customer service and a diverse product offering of pet, farm, lawn, garden, and wild bird supplies. Our goal is to help your home continue to be the special place that it is.
Jim Mackey grew up in the Boston suburb of Chestnut Hill, MA. At his own request, he attended Norfolk County Agriculture High School, but only after his mother allowed him to transfer at the conclusion of his freshmen year. After high school, Jim was admitted to the UMass Stockbridge School of Agriculture. Upon graduating, Jim procured a job with the Purina Mills Corporation as a regional salesmen going farm to farm selling livestock feed.
Jim married his wife Elizabeth in 1956, and together they had two daughters, Diane and Cheryl.
In 1967 Jim was assigned the responsibility of selling the corporately owned Purina Checkerboard Store in Willimantic, CT to an independent buyer. One day, while chatting with a personal friend, Jim mentioned his task to sell the store. Jim’s friend challenged, “You know who you’re going to sell it to. You’re going to buy it.” Thinking through it himself, Jim decided to present the proposal to the Purina management team.
Purina supported the idea and provided Jim with a favorable agreement that gave him a 1-year leave of absence to take on the endeavor. At the end of the 1-year term, Jim was to either purchase the store or relocate to Maine and take on a new sales territory.
In the summer of 1968, the young Mackey family had planned a cross-country camping trip in their tent RV. Well, those plans were put on hold and the money the family had saved up for their trip became the initial deposit for the purchase of the store. The store quickly transitioned from a corporate operation to the Mackey’s family business. Jim was joined by his wife, Elizabeth (most call her Betty, some of us call her Grandma).
The original building had a small retail area on the left side of the store, a large warehouse and shipping dock in the center, and a tall grain mill, used to mix feeds, on the right side.
As the family business progressed, new product lines were brought into the store. Wild bird seed was an early addition, followed by pet foods, and eventually lawn and garden products.
Iams Eukanuba was the first premium pet food to be offered. At the time, Jim was against the idea that the consumer would pay $20 for a bag of dog food. Today, premium pet foods are the number one selling category in the stores.
The large selection of plant material, fertilizers, and garden supplies found in the store today all started with the sale of a few tomato plants. Jim started buying tomato plants from a local grower, which then led to the purchase of more vegetable plants, and eventually the diverse selection of supplies currently found in our stores.
In 1982, the family business welcomed the second generation with Jim and Betty’s daughter Diane joining full time.
On July 12th, 1990, Mackey’s 23 year old family business burnt to the ground. The fire drew a response of eight fire departments and approximately 124 firefighters.
Without much deliberation, the Mackey family was moving forward on a plan to rebuild. Soon enough, a grain truck was in route and two trailers were setup as a temporary store in the parking lot. Although it took a determined family to get the business moving again, in an interview with a local paper Betty Mackey expressed a tremendous amount of gratitude for the community’s support, stating, “Friends, other businesses, customers, the Lions Club and many others have been wonderful to us."
Together, the Mackey’s family, employees, and community marched forward in rebuilding the business. With determination and humility, Betty cadenced, “But it has to be one step at a time.”
A year later, Mackey’s reopened the store on July 20th, 1991.
1990 had it’s personal challenges for the family as well, as Jim Mackey had suffered a stroke in January. For additional support with the store, Diane’s husband, Terry Therrien, joined the Mackey’s team.
The Next Steps
With three young kids, Diane and Terry spent several summers camping in Salem, CT, where Terry would commute to the store daily. On his drive to work, Terry passed the Colchester Coal and Stove business on Route 16 in Colchester, CT. Terry stopped in one day to ask the owner, Herb Levine, if he was interested in potentially selling the business. Initially, Herb decline the notion, but later reached out to Terry for further consideration.
In 1999, Mackey’s opened it’s 2nd location in Colchester, CT.
Our Woodstock store opened in the spring of 2015 in a former lumber yard, and a third generation joined the team.
Mackey's launched it's online store in 2019 with the goal of expanding our product selection and developing a convenient home delivery service.
The Mackey’s team is continuously working hard to offer great customer service and the best products at the best prices for your home. We are looking forward to the road ahead, but in the words of Betty (Grandma), we’ll be marching one step at a time.
To be continued…
Now for a story from one of our most special customers: