* Story by Lolita Harper; photo by [tk]
A self-proclaimed animal person
NOT JUST FOR HORSES
Jenny Engelstad doesn't own a horse, but she can help a person find
the right feed or grooming supply in a heartbeat. During her longtime
post as the manager of the Feed Barn in Costa Mesa, Engelstad has learned
a lot about larger animals but not enough to buy any, she said. Engelstad
has two cats and a dog.
"Horses are just big dogs to me," she joked.
Feed Barn has a well-deserved reputation for outfitting horse and
livestock owners, but the barn-like store in the 2300 block of Newport
Boulevard caters to more domestic animals as well.
"We have all the things that [large-name pet stores] have, but we are
nicer," she said.
If the folks at Feed Barn seem like a tightknit group, it's because
they are. Aside from their common love for animals and shared working
environment, the staff at Feed Barn is family. Engelstad works with her
sister-in-law, who is married to the owner.
"I've known all these people since I was 17," she said. "Now we spend
all of our holidays together."
The family tradition deepens, as Engelstad was first hired on to
temporarily take the place of a cousin who was managing the store.
Engelstad had just graduated from high school in 1988 and was living in
Chino when her cousin approached her with a summer employment
"She wanted to take the summer off, and she wanted me to step in and
take her place for a while," Engelstad said.
Engelstad learned the ropes -- literally -- and liked it so much, she
ended up staying. Fourteen years later, she's living in Bayview Heights,
running the store and related to her employers.
"It's a family business, and it shows," she said.
SLOWER PACE, HIGHER QUALITY
The family ties at Feed Barn translate into a friendly atmosphere,
which lends itself to a much more caring connection to customers,
Engelstad said. Staff members have been in the animal supply business for
a long time and are not too rushed to talk to clients about the
individual needs of their animals.
"We ask a lot of questions before we get down to the top three needs
for their pet," Engelstad said. "And we can understand that these are
issues people really care about because we all have animals ourselves."
Engelstad -- or any member of her staff, she might add -- can offer
expert opinions on bathing, exercise, special diets, particular brands of
food, hygiene -- you name it. She won't pretend to know everything -- or
try to steer you to one brand -- but she will give you honest advice.
"We are just overall swell people," Engelstad said with a big smile.