Bay Hay and Feed—Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow

Bay Hay and Feed General Store - looking down from the office staircaseWhen you first enter Bay Hay and Feed, your initial thoughts might be, “oh, this is a quaint little store” but don’t be fooled, quaint it is, little it is not. The Rolling Bay store isn’t new, in fact, the building on the corner of NE Valley Road and Sunrise Drive NE was built in 1912 by Lucas Rodal and served much the same purpose then, as it does today…with a few upgrades that is.

Framed picture of the original store - hanging on office stairwell - Bay Hay and FeedIn 1979, Howard Block and Ce-Ann Parker purchased the historic building and surrounding acreage and began to expand, creating the nursery and additional buildings you see today. From the beginning, they wanted Bay Hay and Feed (BH&F) to be a reflection of the community they lived in, and meeting the needs of the island population. In 1985, they wanted to expanded off-island and opened up Sacks Feed in Kingston with Jeff Groman and Els Heyne—Jeff was an old friend from the college days at the University of New Hampshire and he and Els managed the store in Kingston.

Bay Hay and Feed Rolling Bay - Bainbridge Island, WAI sat down with Els to learn more about her journey as part of the Bay Hay and Feed family. Els came to the U.S. in 1981 from the Netherlands, where she grew up on a dairy and flower farm. She moved to Bainbridge Island with her husband Jeff in 1983. After starting Sacks Feed, Jeff also started a bicycle shop in the back of the building, while Els continued running the feed and nursery. By 1987—the same year their daughter, Devin, was born—the bicycle shop had outgrown the current space and Jeff opened Classic Cycle in Kingston. Els, continued to run Sacks until they sold the business in 1996. In 2000 Jeff and Els opened Classic Cycle on Bainbridge Island and Els also started working part-time for Bay Hay and Feed.  In 2010, Jeff and Els sold Classic Cycle and Els began working full-time at BH&F. First as the sustainability director and later as the general manager.

Buy Fresh Buy Local - GroceryOver the years, Els has served on many Bainbridge Island non-profit boards, such as the Chamber of Commerce, One-Call-for-All, Sustainable Bainbridge (which she helped co-found) and Bainbridge Artisan Resource Network (BARN), where she serves as a current board member.

However, her passion for sustainable living—which falls in line with Bay Hay and Feed’s green goals—spurred her to go back to school and obtain an MBA in Sustainability. “Passion for sustainability has always been with me. I think growing up in the Netherlands made that happen. Since so many people live in such a small country, you are much more aware of waste. The Netherlands was already recycling and composting waste when I was growing up. That was one of the reasons I co-started Sustainable Bainbridge, I wanted to try to help improve systems here on Bainbridge,” she explained.

BH&F has always been at the forefront of sustainability. Through the years, they installed solar panels, two rain gardens, which filters and cleans rain runoff before it reaches the aquifer and the sound, they compost almost all their waste, recycle all paper and cardboard (including the paper waste from the Post Office and café housed on the property) and sponsor Styrofoam collection. Over the years they’ve won many awards for their efforts (and success) and continue to work closely with Zero Waste Bainbridge.

Bay Hay and Feed Nursery and Chase the CatEls and the staff at BH&F feel strongly about recycling, and starting at the source of waste is an important part, letting businesses know that they should be using alternatives to Styrofoam and other non-recyclable/compostable materials. “We at Bay Hay try to do the same, making companies aware that their retail packages use too much plastic (and Styrofoam) so we will not buy them”, she said, “We the consumer and users can make a big difference with our buying power.”

Bay Hay and Feed General StoreWhen Howard and Ce-Ann began to contemplate retirement, they were naturally concerned that BH&F continue as it was and meet the needs of their customers and the community as a whole. They needn’t have worried though, as the saying goes, “the stars aligned”— Els, Jeff and their daughter Devin and her husband Nick decided they wanted to carry on with Bay Hay and Feed. Devin who was working as a project manager for the non-profit, PATH in Seattle, and her husband, Nick Snyder, who has a degree in forestry and was the arborist for the City of Bainbridge Island were looking for a change and jumped at the opportunity to work together as a family. Their combined experience, commitment to sustainability, and investment in the community made the transition of the business from one family to the other, seamless.

The only changes you’ll see at BH&F are their continued efforts to become a zero-waste business, the newborn baby chicks, new styles of clothing and boots, as well as fun new products in pet gear, gifts and more. They will continue to carry the freshest locally grown organic produce, dairy, meat and chicken, as well as local wines, ciders, honey and much more. The nursery will always be stocked with a plethora of seasonal plants and garden materials. And of course, the iconic farm-themed tees and sweatshirts.

Regardless of how busy they are, someone is always available to greet you with a friendly smile and help you find what you need.

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