With the weather finally cooperating, many of us are trying to play catch up with our gardening and outdoor activities. If you’re feeling overwhelmed by the season’s possibilities, don’t worry – Westerly Agway has got you covered, with friendly and knowledgeable staff to guide you through any question or tangle of weeds.
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Andy McCaslin has been Westerly Agway’s owner for over two decades, buying the business out in 1999 after working several years as its manager. Current Store Manager Peter Hall came along shortly thereafter, working at other Agways in New England as a training manager and regular manager, until joining Andy in 2001.
Purchasing Agway has given Andy a chance to break free from corporate expectations, focusing instead on his employees and fostering a strong relationship with customers and the broader community. Both men have seen their share of competition from big box stores, whether in the form of brick and mortar or internet-based, but have learned how to stand out by taking the extra steps to deliver high quality customer service matched with knowledge and experience.
Still, it’s an every day fight. “Sometimes we’ll get calls from an employee at one of the Box stores, looking for an expert to answer their questions about a problem or a product, and that can be really difficult, because you know that there’s a customer on the other end of the line, too,” Peter explained, speaking to the delicate tightrope walk of supporting a customer without supporting your direct competition.
“It’s tough as a small business, and we really need community backing or else the internet would just chew us apart,” Andy added.
Towards that end, Andy and Peter are always looking for new things to offer the community, whether it be fun events, educational opportunities, or support of local projects such as Westerly’s Little League team, 4H, church plant sales, or 2018’s Brick and Murals.
“We were very involved with the murals,” Andy said. “We went to all the town meetings and spoke about how great this would be for everyone in and around Westerly and Pawcatuck, and we even have two murals on our building.”
Other events have included hosting an annual Pet Pictures with Santa as a way to further connect with the animal lovers and caregivers in town, and hosting a Farmers Market on Saturdays in partnership with the Southern Rhode Island Conservation District to support their local farmers and vegetable growers. They also strive to support the area’s beekeepers, an essential element in both the local and global ecological economy in an age of bees becoming an endangered species. “We just want to be involved in all aspects,” Andy said.
Westerly Agway also hosts Southern Rhode Island Conservation District’s Summer Learning Series, a series of training seminars throughout the spring and summer. The topics range from lawn and garden care to urban gardening endeavors such as “Chicken Chats” and “Square Foot Gardening,” along with soil testing and soil replenishing classes.
“I think people like to see a familiar face and know that they’re buying from their neighbor,” Andy explained. “Our basic philosophy is that people will continue to go to you as long as you treat them right and the community right,” Peter added.
Come and grow your garden along with your feelings of community with the help of Westerly’s Agway soon!