WOODHULL TWP. — Feighner Boat Lifts and Docks is returning to its roots as a business.
Inspired by the emerging “ghost” restaurant concept — in which restaurants create a separate business without adding an additional storefront — the company has expanded to offer farm feeds, soaps, lotions and a variety of other farm-related products at its Perry location, 7829 Lansing Road, staples of the family business when it first took hold in the 1980s.
“We just felt that there was kind of a need for it in the community,” chief marketing officer Gabrielle Feighner Baker said Wednesday. “I have a farm that I run separately with alpacas and hair sheep and just thought it would kind of be a natural fit.”
The idea for the “ghost store” was sparked by a similar venture at Saddleback BBQ in Lansing, according to Baker. The restaurant, known for its variety of smoked meats, launched a separate takeout only restaurant — Tacos, Burritos and Bowls — within its existing space at its Lansing and Okemos locations earlier this year.
Baker, who along with her husband owns a 10-acre farm with alpacas and hair sheep in Woodhull Township, saw an opportunity for Feighner to expand its footprint beyond shipping boat lifts and docks around the world.
“Our business with the boat lifts and docks is super, super busy in the spring and summer, and that’s generally when the animals are out grazing. As we get into the colder months, we’re definitely manufacturing and still going with the boat lifts and docks, but it’s not as busy,” Baker said. “That’s where we thought the farm feeds would be a nice complimentary fit because obviously the pasture kind of dwindles down and a lot of farmers are supplementing with grain to get some of their cows and pigs and things like that ready to go to slaughter.”
Partnering with the Moline Milling Cooperative on the west side of the state, the Feighners now offer a variety of fresh, locally sourced farm feeds at their Perry storefront, including feed for horses, calves, hogs, chickens, goats, alpacas, llamas, sheep and deer.
All of the products are grown by Michigan farmers, Baker said, adding the feeds are sold in 50-pound bags, ranging from $12.50 to $15.90 per bag, depending on the type of feed. Customers can purchase the feed in-store as well as online at 1800boatlift.com, she said. Curbside pickup is available.
The Feighners farm store also features alpaca fleece products — including gloves, socks, hats and blankets — as well as soaps, shampoos and lotions from Minnesota-based Duke Cannon Supply Company.
The move to add a farm store brings the company back to its roots, according to owner and CEO Scott Feighner, as the company initially began as a small family farm in Nashville, Michigan.
“We started out farming and then that evolved into doing farm feeds and pet foods,” Feighner said Wednesday, “I think it’s awesome (that we’ve added this) because it’s part of what we used to do many years ago and in the Perry location I think there’s a legitimate need for the products, a huge need actually.
“It’s just a great situation.”
The creative business venture has not gone unnoticed by Shiawassee Economic Development Partnership President/CEO Justin Horvath, who commended Baker for her entrepreneurial spirit.
“With every crisis there’s opportunity, and there’s a reason for innovation and trying new things and doing something a little bit different, so while the effects of COVID-19 have certainly been harmful for many companies, there are bright spots that come out of it, of innovation and diversification and I think this is a really good example,” Horvath said. “The whole Feighner family is wonderful and so I’m not surprised at all given (Gabrielle’s) background and the success of the business that she’s trying this new venture…I think they’re going to be very successful.”
For Baker, the new business venture serves as an opportunity to further explore her passion for farming.
“We’re just trying to be creative and have a little fun too, you know?” She said. “It’s just one of those things that I have a personal passion for, it’s a nod to our company history and something that I think the community will really enjoy.”
Feighner Boat Lifts and Docks is open from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. For more information, call (517) 675-1100 or visit 1800boatlift.com.