A Blend of Yesteryear & Know-how

06 Aug 2020

An all-round supply store with a foothold in horse country

By Crissy Neville  »  Photos by Mollie Tobias

Hey, Sandhills, did you know you have a centenarian in your midst? This nearby neighbor is the friendly and industrious type, with deep, local roots and a proven record for helpfulness. Handiness, too. What’s more, this golden-ager, a spry 101 years, has a younger sister with similar attributes. The pair’s reputation precedes them throughout their homes in Richmond and Moore counties — a good name known across the Sandhills region and the Tarheel state. Meet E.E. Vuncannon, Inc., the circa 1919 agricultural supplier in Ellerbe and Aberdeen Supply Company, its subsidiary and sister-store located in historic downtown Aberdeen. A step inside Aberdeen Supply, or ASCO, is to tread back in time — simpler days before super-sized big box stores and faceless, online shopping.

“Good morning!” “Come on in.” “What can we do for you?” are the salutations customers hear when arriving at 201 North Sycamore Street, the Aberdeen Vuncannon-owned site. The store name and operations go back to when Cecil Bradley Vuncannon, Jr., fondly called “Pete,” acquired the store and title in 1981, effectively doubling the business founded by the family patriarch — Edward Vuncannon of Ellerbe — in the early 20th century. Before a seed store, the site served time as a tractor supply, too. Known as “Pete’s  Place” by locals for years, the store changed management and its moniker when fourth-generation family great-grandson Jason Vuncannon took the wheel — today a driving force behind the retailer’s ongoing success. Along with assistant manager Collin Hobson and a dozen total employees, the staff meets many mercantile needs of the community and knows nearly all the names and faces of their loyal customers that return day after day like a record player on repeat.

The most clientele comes from Moore County horse country — backyard enthusiasts and Olympic riders alike — equestrians representing every discipline from jumping and showing to racing and hunting. ASCO specializes in supplies for horse, pet and garden, and not always in that order, according to store manager and co-owner Vuncannon. “Equine is our largest market; we carry everything a horse needs except tack,” he said. “Though we do sell some basics like halters and lead ropes. Pet sales are right up there, too. And in the spring planting season, the garden center is
packed — especially this year due to COVID.”

The sprawling supply company accents over an acre of land in downtown
Aberdeen — an entire city block. Along with the main store are numerous outcroppings of warehouses for feed and overflow, the plant center and a hay barn. Meandering through the vintage-oak-floored store aisles, where bins of millet and centipede seed cozy up next to bags of snake repellent and Sevin dust, you might be followed by one slightly cocky Bantam rooster named Darryl or the friendly tail-wagger that is Blake the yellow lab. As Vuncannon explained, the animals-turned-store mascots were named by some children present in the store when the pets arrived some time back. The fur-and-feather friends fit in nicely with the company’s motif and love for all-things animal.

Those shopping for horse products find shelves stocked and labeled by category. Iron or B1 supplements? Check. Muscle Enhancers? Check. Gut health and weight gain products; growth, hoof or joint supplements; grooming tools and conditioning products; wormers, cough formulas, ear and eye care solutions and gut health products? Check. Check. Check. Step into the back room to find a full line of horse feed and hay supplements. ASOC can supply the grain-based dietary needs of horses whether they are fed high protein, growth, economy or premium brands, among others. The store is among the few N.C. authorized retailers of the popular Buckeye Nutrition multitextured horse grain, a draw for many customers, especially those native to the North and Ohio, the brand’s namesake state. Just like dessert after dinner, top off the sale with snacks for your steed, made of — you guessed it, apples. Sweeten the pot with a jar of local Moore County honey for yourself.

With pen and paper — no computer ordering or virtual sales here — seasoned store employee and product purchaser Ashley Riddle takes orders to restock the shelves and bins when supplies get nearly empty, a measure that keeps the feed fresh and current. When queried about the bestselling horse feed in the store, the knowledgeable Riddle replied, “Triple Crown Senior Feed,” faster than a final-round Jeopardy contestant. The mature feed is a beet pulp-derived product with a well-balanced gut package suitable for almost all horses. When getting feed, don’t forget the square-baled coastal hay right next door in the hay barn, purchased each week from local Sandhills farmers — also from around the state and country thanks to ASOC’s commitment to buying locally and from within the USA.

Not to leave out other animals, ASOC also sells feed and supplies for pets and livestock of all kinds, stocking everything from food to fencing. The garden center is chock-full of measure-to-order seeds, nursery plants, annuals, trees and shrubs — everything needed to make your yard and garden pretty and productive, whether its seasonal vegetables or soil amendments, whether conventional or organic. And if it’s soil help you need, Vuncannon offers assistance with getting soil samples tested, too.

Vuncannon credits his customers for Aberdeen Supply Company’s longevity and success, taking pride in helping customers get what they need for their horses, pets and gardens — a dedication that runs in the family.

Located at 201 N Sycamore St, Aberdeen, and opens Monday to Saturday at 7:30am.

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