Walking up the steps into Manning's Feed and Seed is an experience a person may not forget. The wood floors, bags of feed for domestic animals, the peeps from baby chicks and bins of garden seed all take the shopper back to a simpler time and less hurried culture. It's not difficult to extrapolate as to why a sense of time travel takes place in the mind when history is brought to life.
Manning's Grocery opened in 1937 on Alabama Street and was a successful business in the city of Milton for decades. Owned by James Manning, the business was a staple for many who lived in the heart of the community. Manning's grandson, Andy Bell now owns the property, having purchased the business from Manning in 2004 and established a new business within the walls of the old grocery called Manning's Feed and Seed. Bell said his grandfather was able to, "see the revitalization and even sat behind the cash register for a while before he died."
The business sales farm supplies, garden needs, equine, poultry, pet food and products, lawn and garden, and wildlife support products for hunters.
Since the change and even through the recession, Bell said his business flourished, setting goals and "blowing them away." Their delivery service sends feed and seed across a four county area, from Escambia to Walton. Bell said he has met a few customers from further distances who heard about his business and came to see for themselves, Selma, Alabama, Panama City, and Chipley came to mind. The delivery service, he said, came from a need to be accessible to farms and that's what made the difference.
Bell opened another Manning's Feed and Seed on Woodbine Road in Pace about 5 years ago, he said. It's a different atmosphere mostly focusing on pet and garden supply. It's a great store and services the community but it's different from the Milton community. "I've done more business with just the delivery service than the Pace store does in total. There's just a need," he said and reiterated, "the majority of our business is local."
The Milton City Council chose Manning's Feed and Seed to receive the Clayton White Business of the Quarter Award in April. The award consists of a trophy for perpetuity and keep the
free standing sign for the quarter.
"I didn't choose the city, the city chose us. I was fortunate enough to buy here. The city is unique and there is such a sense of community. People from city hall, the police station, they all come into the store. It feels good. It's an idyllic vision of what we hope for in a town." He said, "It's working together. Other business owners within the city support and encourage each other. It's a sweet thing to be connected. It's a good thing to be in a small town."