Blain's Farm & Fleet now has stores in four states
Blain's Farm & Fleet now has stores in four Midwestern states
By Jean Murphy
Daily Herald Correspondent
Blain's Farm & Fleet, founded in Janesville, Wisconsin, in 1955 by brothers Bert and Claude Blain, bills itself as a modern general store, selling everything from animal and pet food to lawn and garden products, automotive supplies, clothing for all ages, tools, un-refrigerated grocery items and sporting goods.
The chain now boasts 19 of its 41 stores in the northern third of Illinois in places like Sycamore, Montgomery, Woodstock, Ottawa and Kankakee. It ventured into the suburban Chicago market for the first time in late 2016 when it opened stores in Elgin and Romeoville, and most recently has opened three stores in Michigan.
"Selected stores such as those in Ottawa, Decatur and Moline also feature outdoor garden centers, which offer perennial and annual bedding plants, herbs, vegetables and hanging baskets," said Nicole Kilmer, spokeswoman.
"Many of our customers like to say that if Blain's Farm & Fleet doesn't carry it, they don't need it," she quipped.
Blain's Farm & Fleet, which is family-owned and not franchised, hearkens back to the general stores that flourished across the United States during the 18th and 19th centuries in many remote places where a single shop was sufficient to serve an entire community.
Today's Blain's Farm & Fleet is generally located in suburban fringe communities where they can serve hobby farmers (beekeepers and those with horses and chickens, primarily) as well as suburban homeowners.
"Bert and Claude originally wanted to offer their customers the best products at affordable prices for both their farms and fleets (which included both cars and tractors), so that is where they got the name," Kilmer said. "And the store's offerings just grew from there."
Late in 1955, the Blains went back to their hometown of Rice Lake, Wisconsin, to open their second store and the following year they ventured into Illinois, opening their third store in Sycamore.
Blain's Farm & Fleet offers the same range and varieties of products at the same prices, whether they are selling it in Sturtevant, Wisconsin; Cedar Falls, Iowa, or now in Michigan. They offer homeowner tools made by DeWalt and Milwaukee, lawn and garden hand and power tools, mowers, tractors, fertilizers and grass seed, sporting goods, yard games, camping equipment, automotive supplies like tires and batteries, decorative pergolas, limited lawn furniture like Adirondack chairs and portable bag chairs, fencing, ammunition (but no guns), snowblowers, clothing and groceries, to just skim the surface.
"It is worth a trip to see a Blain's Farm & Fleet if you have never visited one," Kilmer said. "It is a great store that is very easy to navigate."
Still family-owned, it is currently run by Bert's daughter, Jane Blain Gilbertson, president and CEO. Her brother, Robert, retired a few years ago and the third generation has not yet entered the business.
Blain's Farm & Fleet prides itself on becoming involved in each store's local community. It always supports the closest FFA chapter and each holiday season, it asks customers to buy and donate toys for its Kids Helping Kids program. Farm & Fleet then matches each donation up to a total of $200,000 across all 41 stores.
The corporation also supports the American Heart Association each August with the Burt Blain Memorial Heart Walk, held in Janesville. Every store sends a team to the Walk and raises money through fun activities in the local stores, Kilmer explained. Over the past 26 years, Blain's Farm & Fleet stores have raised more than $4.5 million for the association.
The Elgin store is located at 629 S. Randall Road and the Romeoville store is located at 450 S. Weber Road. Visit www.farmandfleet.com for more information.