EVERETT — Three years ago, after losing their father to a heart attack, Terry and Rick Morral sat down to talk about making a hard choice: Should they continue to operate Morral Farm Supply as a family-owned business or should they sell it and go their separate ways?
Now that they have recently completed construction of a 5,000-square-foot storage building along Route 26 in Everett that followed a series of improvements, their decision to keep on going is looking like it might have been the right one.
For Rick, 56, it was an easy decision.
He had moved away to start his married life with his bride, Trina, in 1993. He said at that point his wife, whom he called “the one who keeps me sane,” gave him a new look at life.
But, they returned in 2010 to be nearer to both their families. Rick was an established accountant and he hoped he could give his father, who basically handled the bookkeeping for the business while Terry ran the feed operation, a chance to take it easier, maybe retire.
But, no, Rick said: His father didn’t retire and continued working as usual.
“I knew this was all he knew,” Rick said.
And he knew Terry had continued to build the business beside his father.
So when they had that heart-felt discussion the Monday after their father passed away in July of 2016, Rick was supporting the move forward.
“I felt like this was pretty much (Terry’s) retirement, his future,” Rick said. “Dad built us a great business and a great customer base. People loved him, so we decided to keep that going.”
With that decision finalized, Terry, 54, said the next step was to continue to update the business.
While Tom was still alive, Terry talked him into getting a new bulk loader and a bucket elevator leg, which didn’t thrill his father.
“Dad was here 50 years and he was mostly conservative. I think that comes from a generation that came through the Depression,” Terry said.
Terry said he had a vision to expand the business. Because his father had built a business backed by a sufficient amount of capital, Terry said they could start to make his vision a reality.
The Morrals started with the office and store area, which badly needed improvements, Terry said.
The Morrals, after negotiations, eventually purchased an adjacent property that added not quite two acres they would use to construct a new warehouse, built mostly by local contractor Gary Robinette, finished around June to store feed.
The new property also provided more outdoor space to store their larger equipment pieces — timbers, gates, feeders and other farm equipment, all American-made, he said.
The Morrals have another storage area down the road a short ways, where Terry would have to run back and forth to replenish the store. Now that storage area holds wood pellets, one of the business’ in-demand products, he said.
A couple years ago, Morral hired Rodney Fisher, a veteran in the business, whose knowledge of feed has increased sales 30 to 40 percent, Terry said.
Rick had taken over the books and Fisher, as general manager, had captained the feed sales of the business.
“Rodney stepped in to take that knowledge of the feed industry. We have a really good team here. Each guy has his own” expertise, Terry said.
The recently-installed feed handling system also was added. Now, it’s decreasing feed unloading time by at least a third, if not half, Terry said. The impressive unit was hand-built by Eric Semanek, a Bedford millwright, whose system replaced one installed in 1969.
It’s much faster to move the feed when the tractor-trailers roll in to the new handling system, he noted.
The Morrals invested about a half-million dollars in the past three years. The overall improvement project was self-funded.
Terry said the leap into such a big project was one of faith.
“By the grace of God,” he said. “He’s guiding us. That was the same for my father.”
Despite the struggles of farmers and the decline of the dairy industry, he said he’s not worried about it impacting the business negatively.
“I have confidence in the agricultural industry as a whole, especially in this area,” Terry said. “They’re hard-working and they’re not going to give up.”
The Morrals eventually added wood pellets to their business to diversify the products, and it’s paid off. They now sell about 25 to 30 tractor-trailer loads annually.
Terry said ultimately it’s the business’ relationship with customers that is helping the family-owned operation move forward.
“I just thank all the folks that support us. Being a small business, we can’t offer the best prices” like those of larger outlets, he said. But he said he promised the company would continue to provide “great service, trying to treat the customer right. That’s what Rick and I are trying to continue.”
A flour mill was built on the site in the early 1900s and then was purchased by Ralph Orndorff and Thomas Stone. Tom Morral purchased the property from them in 1963.
Today, the operation has seven employees — Rick and Terry, Terry’s wife Leona, and daughter, Kadie, Fisher as the general manager, Jeff Ritchey, Ethan Foor and Cole Arnold.
“I’m blessed with more than I could ever imagine,” Terry said, standing outside the new warehouse. The Morrals try to give the staff bonuses when the business is doing well, too, he said.
Now that a three-year plan is coming together, Terry said he and Rick and their families made the right move.
“I’m so glad we decided to keep dad’s legacy alive,” he said.
This story has been corrected to say Thomas Stone was one of the men who sold the company to Thomas Morral.