Meet the couple that fell in love at historic Wadsworth feed mill

Wadsworth shop nourishes animals, preserves history and, as it so happens, breeds romance

  • Josie Hays met her fiancé, Nick Mercer, at the Wadsworth Feed and Saddlery, which she manages as a family business. It turned out they share a passion for the feed business.

    Josie Hays met her fiancé, Nick Mercer, at the Wadsworth Feed and Saddlery, which she manages as a family business. It turned out they share a passion for the feed business. Joe Lewnard | Staff Photographer

  • Josie Hays and her fiancé, Nick Mercer, restock shelves at closing time on a Saturday afternoon at the Wadsworth Feed and Saddlery in northern Lake County.

    Josie Hays and her fiancé, Nick Mercer, restock shelves at closing time on a Saturday afternoon at the Wadsworth Feed and Saddlery in northern Lake County. Joe Lewnard | Staff Photographer

  • Manager Josie Hays plays fetch with her dachshund mix, Delia, while Nick Mercer moves bags on the loading dock as closing time approaches on a Saturday afternoon at the Wadsworth Feed and Saddlery.

    Manager Josie Hays plays fetch with her dachshund mix, Delia, while Nick Mercer moves bags on the loading dock as closing time approaches on a Saturday afternoon at the Wadsworth Feed and Saddlery. Joe Lewnard | Staff Photographer

  • Nick Mercer moves bags of corn to the loading dock at the Wadsworth Feed and Saddlery.

    Nick Mercer moves bags of corn to the loading dock at the Wadsworth Feed and Saddlery. Joe Lewnard | Staff Photographer

  • Delia, left, and Tango encounter one another atop bags of pet food.

    Delia, left, and Tango encounter one another atop bags of pet food. Joe Lewnard | Staff Photographer

  • Manager Josie Hays, left, assists customer John Doerr of Gurnee as he purchases seeds at the Wadsworth Feed and Saddlery.

    Manager Josie Hays, left, assists customer John Doerr of Gurnee as he purchases seeds at the Wadsworth Feed and Saddlery. Joe Lewnard | Staff Photographer

  • Wadsworth Feed and Saddlery is part of a feed mill business which is more than 100 years old.

    Wadsworth Feed and Saddlery is part of a feed mill business which is more than 100 years old. Joe Lewnard | Staff Photographer

 
 
Updated 7/2/2015 6:31 AM

Josie Hays and Nick Mercer share a passion for a feed mill that has developed into a romance for one another.

Hays and Mercer, both 25, met while working together at the Wadsworth Feed and Saddlery in Wadsworth. Initially they were friends and would often go out to see movies together. They soon started dating, and after nearly five years together they have set a Sept. 5 wedding date.

 

Mercer said both he and Hays had a passion for the feed store before they met.

"We make a pretty good team," Mercer said. "Now that I've found somebody else that has the same passion, that's really nice."

The feed store is at 15250 W. Wadsworth Road in the village of Wadsworth, population 3,755, in northern Lake County.

It is part of a classic Midwestern feed mill that traces its origins back to the 1880s.

Hays said the feed mill was originally a support structure for the railroad and was later converted into a station, Then, in the 1940s, it was moved to its present location, the cement-block storefront was added, and it became a feed store.

The Hays family started in the feed business when they purchased Klema Feeds in Franksville, Wisconsin, in 1980. The family purchased the Wadsworth location in 1992.

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Hays, the store's manager, represents the third generation of her family to run the business. Mercer started there in 2009, though he currently spends most of his week in Franksville and works in Wadsworth Saturdays only.

One thing they like most about the store are its customers.

"Most customers are like family," Mercer said. "You get started on a conversation, and the next time you see them, you start that conversation up and just keep going with it."

On a busy Saturday, the customers stop to make purchases on items including chicken feed, dog food, vegetable seeds and plantings, flowers and straw. According to Hays, the business sells food for any kind of animal, although sales of chicken feed have increased as some suburbs have allowed residents to keep chickens.

Since there aren't many farms left in northern Lake County, Hays said, most of the store's sales are to suburban residents.

While the age of most customers tends to be 30 or older, both Hays and Mercer hope the children visiting the feed store with their parents will continue the tradition as they reach adulthood.

"I like when they bring their kids in and you kind of get to see their kids grow up," Hays said. "That's my favorite part."

Love: Hays family has run store for three generations

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