Article and Photo by Rachel LaFranchi, Farm News Production Editor
|Lou Bertolini stands in front of Western Farm Center's hay Barn.|
Brothers Lou and Larry Bertolini started Western Farm Center in 1967 after the Carnation Company closed their retail store. They took over the building near Railroad Square from the Barlas Mill and opened Western Farm Center to meet the needs of customers who had previously purchased from the Carnation Company.
When they first started nearly 50 years ago, Larry and Lou hired one person to manage their business. However, as the business continued to grow they hired another person and grew into more than just a small feed store. Western Farm Center kept expanding their product line and over time developed into a wholesale business as well.
“We just sort of grew,” said Lou Bertolini who is still involved with the store but describes himself as semi-retired.
The Bertolinis sold the wholesale division in 2002 after Larry become ill and Lou decided to take a step back. Larry Bertolini, a respected community leader, died in 2012.
Now known as Animal Supply Company, the wholesale section of Western Farm is a nationwide distributor of animal products.
Since Western Farm Center started in 1967, Lou has seen a significant change in products sold as the neighborhood around them developed and the store became embedded in the heart of Santa Rosa.
“We were a country store at one time,” said Lou, “but now we’re more of a city-fied country store.”
The primary product Western Farm Center sells has moved from livestock feeds and products to dog food followed closely by cat food. They strive to give customers the best price possible and to carry the products their customers are looking for.
Western Farm Center aims to take care of their employees. Lou believes they key to a successful business is having long-term employees. He wants to keep employees working at the store because he knows it’s important to the customers to have relationships with the staff. The store has more than 40 employees, some of whom have worked for there more than 40 years.
Since selling the wholesale division, Lou Bertolini feels the store is more in touch with the local community and they are involved with the sector they love: agriculture.
His goal for the future is to continue what they’re doing including supporting the community. With most of their customers Santa Rosa based, they know supporting their community helps to support the store.
For Western Farm Center, Lou knows there are a lot of organizations that need support, but supporting the agriculture industry is critical to everyone. Since Farm Bureau supports the ag industry, it is important to Western Farm Center to continue to support Farm Bureau.
“If any community has a good agricultural base, everyone benefits from it. It’s important to support that,” said Lou Bertolini.
You can find more information about Western Farm Center at
westernfarmcenter.com or by visiting their retail location at 21 W 7th St in Santa Rosa.