OTTAWA - The life span of business can vary greatly. Starting a business and maintaining it is a tumultuous journey. For an organization to stay open for 50 years, it takes a vision and a strong group of people.

The Ottawa Feed and Grain is no exception. Originally a flour mill known as Mauer Flour Mill, the company was purchased on Oct. 17, 1963 from Ruben Brackney. Following the purchase from Brackney, it was changed to Ottawa Feed & Grain.

In 1972 the office building was extended and the hardware store was created. In 1976 Ottawa Feed and Grain purchased the building across the street from Kohls Market. This is the home of the Ottawa Feed & Grain True Value Hardware store today.

In the mid 1980s, the lawn mower and chainsaw repair shop was established.

Later on, the land east of the railroad tracks was purchased. The old State Garage and Ice House occupied some of the property. The ice house is used for storage today. The old State Garage was torn down in 2001 and four large grain storage bins, grain dump and dryer were erected.

The four new grain storage bins helped with building Ottawa Feed & Grain's storage capacity adding 100,000 bushels per bin.

The company has seen many changes over 50 years.
"Well the biggest change is that we are not a flour mill any more," said Joe Recker. "That was a huge step."

Another large change is how product is brought in.

"One of the biggest changes is the increase in amount of product coming via semi," said Elaine Niese. "With larger vehicles it is much faster pace."

According to Niese, before larger vehicles the company saw a lot more wagons. These wagons would line up down the highway.

"They would be lined up because we were waiting on the dryer to dry the grain and it was a slower process," said Niese. "It was an all night operation."

Recker added, "But now the dryer runs faster, the legs run faster and the wagons are bigger so instead of having seven or eight wagons in line you have one wagon that holds the same as those seven or eight. Things are just done a lot faster now. But with any business you look for efficiency."

It is that drive for efficiency that has helped Ottawa Feed & Grain have staying power.

"We are going to continue to change and adapt, or you won't be here in another 50 years," said Recker. "For example, we are looking into stepping into the seed business."

Ottawa Feed & Grain has also always had a deep appreciation for the community they find themselves in.

The company used to hold a Pancake and Sausage Appreciation Day held in early spring for customers. Whole hog sausage and sourdough pancakes were prepared and served by stockholders, their family, and Ottawa Feed and Grain employees.

Now, to celebrate 50 years, Ottawa Feed & Grain will hold an open house from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. on July 9 and 10.

Feed & Grain also strives to be local to their core.

"For example, for our open house we make sure we buy meats locally," said Siefker. "First thing we did was check with the local business. We continue to employ local people, provide local service and buy local. We are a local business and that is important to us. It started family-oriented and it has grown to be extended family-oriented."