By Nate Strauch
Herald Democrat, Sherman, Texas.
When retired cop Ronald “Wilson” Wilson relocated his family from Kansas City to a ranch northeast of Van Alstyne in 2010, it was a no-brainer to enroll his two young daughters in the local chapter of 4-H, he said. His goal was the same as most parents — to have the organization change his kids’ futures in some small way. But sometime between then and now, “small” became something quite more.
“My girls have a horse and some chickens and ducks and guineas, and stuff like that,” Wilson said Monday. “So naturally, we got enrolled in the 4-H program.”
Caylan, now 15, and Cadey, 12, enrolled in the 4-H entrepreneurship program, first with a failed a pumpkin patch and then with a small vegetable garden. But happenstance and the generosity of a Sherman business owner conspired to take the sisters’ third-year project from “cute” to “loot.”
“(Gene and Betty) Buchanan — they owned (Texoma Feed and Garden Center) for many, many years — so she gave the girls garden seeds,” said Wilson. “That’s how we got to be friends with Mrs. Buchanan.
“Well, about a year and a half ago, Mrs. Buchanan called us one night, just out of the blue. And she said, ‘Gene and I cannot do the feed store anymore. … We’ve got to retire. And we’ve been talking, and we love your two girls, and we want to sell our feed store to your two girls.'”
“You don’t hear of two little kids owning a feed store very often,” recalled Caylan. “But it sounded like fun. Mrs. Buchanan was going to help us.”
“It was kind of amazing that she would ask us, because I was only 10 and she was 14,” added Cadey.
Betty Buchanan worked alongside the sisters during their first three weeks on the job, before suffering a stroke that left her without the ability to communicate vocally. Since then, the Wilsons have learned the feed trade the hard way, all the while using the store’s monthly profits to pay back the Buchanans.
“No down payment, no interest, and however much money the girls make in profit, that’s how much their payment would be each month,” said Wilson. “You can’t beat that deal.”
In the 18 months since the Wilson sisters took command of Texoma Feed & Garden Center, much has changed. The century-old building from which the Buchanan’s operated for decades has been cleaned and reconfigured to allow more product. Customers have taken notice, as the girls say business has increased 14-fold since May of 2013.
“We expanded our front area and we also have built a wall, so we have an enclosed office to work on our paperwork,” said Caylan. “We’ve learned a lot.”
Local leaders have taken notice, too. The Sherman Chamber of Commerce recently gave the Wilson sisters Business of the Month status — a happy bit of luck, said Chamber Tourism Coordinator Lauren Roth.
“Each month, the Sherman Chamber Ambassadors select a member of the month at random,” explained Roth. “When we saw that Texoma Feed and Garden had been selected, we were very excited. We always enjoy seeing businesses and entrepreneurs succeed and prosper, but it is even more special to see the hard work that Cadey and Caylan have put into Texoma Feed and Garden be rewarded.”
The sisters say they plan to continue working at the store through high school, by which time the Wilsons should own the business outright, said the family patriarch. In the meantime, the world’s most realistic 4-H project figures to require a good deal of work on the part of its pint-sized ownership group.
“They work every night for two, two-and-a-half hours after school, and then we go home and do the books,” said Wilson Wilson”(4-H) is mostly for, like, lemonade stands and selling tomatoes alongside the road. It’s not this, usually,” he said with a laugh.