Spokane Journal of Business

Aslin Finch acquired by Skagit Farmer Supply

Skagit Farmers Supply to preserve name, stores of longtime company

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Aslin-Finch Co., a Spokane Valley-based concern that operates seven retail feed and pet supply stores, and its AFCO Distribution & Milling wholesale division have been acquired by agricultural co-operative Skagit Farmers Supply, of Burlington, Wash.

Financial terms of the transaction, which became effective Jan. 1, weren't disclosed.

Jay Allert, Aslin-Finch president, says the retail operations here will continue to operate under the Aslin-Finch name. Also, he says, Aslin-Finch's workforce of about 95 employees will be retained, including those in the AFCO division.

Aslin-Finch, which was founded in Spokane in 1937, operates two retail stores in Spokane Valley and one each in North Spokane, Colville, Kettle Falls, Coeur d'Alene, and Stevensville, Mont. Under the wholesale division, it also makes and distributes livestock feed with brand names that include LMF Horse Feeds and Golden Harvest.

Skagit Farmers Supply, which was founded in 1934, operates six retail stores, two agronomy sites, fuel stations, and five propane bulk plants on the West Side. The member co-op, governed by a board of five directors, serves farmers, homeowners, businesses, and families in Skagit, Island, San Juan, and Snohomish counties in northwestern Washington.

Brian Duquaine, CEO and general manager of Skagit Farmers Supply, says the co-op has more than 30,000 members, and its operations employ about 200 people.

"There is a great deal of parallels between our two companies, and by bringing two successful operations together, it gives us both opportunities to grow," he says.

He adds, "The similarities between the stores and how Aslin-Finch has grown—the cultures and philosophies are very much the same—that's why the acquisition was so attractive to us. We wouldn't be starting from scratch."

He says retail customers don't have to be co-op members to buy from Skagit Farmers Supply stores, which are located in Mount Vernon, Stanwood, Freeland, Burlington, Oak Harbor, and Sedro Wooley, Wash. Duquaine says the Skagit Farmers Supply also has a large number of rural customers, similar to Aslin-Finch, as well as a substantial animal feed and pet supply business.

Allert agrees with Duquaine about the retail and cultural similarities, saying people walking into an Aslin-Finch store could be walking into a Skagit Farmers Supply store, and that the two companies share similar customers and values.

"That's going to give us great synergy going forward," he says.

Many of Aslin-Finch's customers have rural properties or small farms on 5 to 10 acres of land, Allert says, but he adds that the pet side of the business continues to grow rapidly.

"People love their pets," he says. "More and more it's about dogs and cats than it is about horses and cows."

AFCO Distribution & Milling serves about 800 dealers in eight Western states, Allert says. In 2008, Aslin-Finch acquired Cascade Seed Co., a Spokane wholesaler of grass and pasture seed and garden items that became part of AFCO and expanded its distribution offerings.

Prior to the acquisition by Skagit Farmers, Allert co-owned the company along with Alvin J. "Fritz" Wolff Jr., a longtime real estate and finance entrepreneur, and other Wolff family members. Allert will continue to oversee Aslin-Finch operations.

Treva Lind
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