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Martin Ranch Supply offers urban, suburban, farm goods

Sunday, June 17th, 2012 | Posted by | 3 responses

By MARIE THOMAS McNAUGHTON / Rohnert Park Correspondent

Lyle Smith is a man of bridled assurance when he talks about Martin Ranch Supply’s breadth and depth of merchandise and services: “We have it, we’ll get it, or we’ll make it.”

Lyle Smith, owner of Martin Ranch Supply, center, helps Odalis, left, and Ana Garcia with their questions at his store in Rohnert Park on Wednesday, June 6, 2012.

His no-hype, can-do attitude is the essence of this Rohnert Park standby for farmers, ranchers, pet owners, gardeners and just plain folk.

See photos from the store  here.

“Yes, we are open to the public,” he said. “It’s casual, friendly, family.”

The business was founded in 1974 by locals Bruce and Connie Martin and specialized in custom-made fencing, gates, shelters and other metal ranch and farm supplies.

Their son Gary still heads manufacturing, and daughter-in-law Kim works the office.

Since Smith purchased the business in 2006, the long-trusted Martin Ranch Supply name has been extended to cover a number of businesses in one:

*The retail operation and custom-work showroom at Redwood and Martin drives, next to Highway 101;
*The fabricating facility at the other end of Martin Drive, where the company manufactures steel and iron fencing, panels, gates, shelters, bridle racks, ad infinitum;
*The long-lived specialty business in horse, livestock and utility trailers.

Smith likens the catch-all enterprise to a U.S. farm belt “ranch-and-home store,” a sort of agrarian dry goods dealer with everything from clothing and hardware to feed and trailer parts.

“Based on that model, we’ve added a lot of inventory and product on the retail end,” he said. “The only thing we don’t carry is feed, but we do have the cheapest blue jeans around, Wranglers for $23.”

It’s a Sonoma County special adaptation, said Smith. In this urban-suburban-rural community, there’s plenty of competition in all market segments (farm, ranch, fencing, trailers and general retail), but offering the variety in one place is unique.

At any moment, you’ll find general consumers on the hunt for gardening supplies, gopher traps, rain gear and gifts; mixing with contractors placing orders for fences and hardware; small-property owners seeking houses for their dogs, cats, horses, goats, sheep, cattle; and professional horsemen, ranchers, cattle owners comparing water and containment systems and tack.

“We specialize in extensive product knowledge and hard-to-find items,” said Smith.

“We enjoy educating customers and designing solutions,” said Smith. The team will match up stock materials, place special orders and/or fabricate what isn’t made by someone else.

A horseman and the owner of the Two Dove Ranch between Bloomfield and Valley Ford, Smith is especially proud of his company’s horse housing, fencing and gates.

“We have a steadfast commitment not just to what works, but also to durability, longevity and what’s best for the animal.

“If horses can get into trouble, they will. We ensure edges and corners are smooth and safe. An expedient solution in fencing isn’t a good value if it comes with an accidental injury and vet bills. We aim for long-term relationships.”

Now 49, Smith was born in Waco, Texas, and came to California when he was 9. He grew up riding bareback and operating farm equipment. He graduated from Fairfield High School and earned a B.A. in economics at a little place called “The Farm,” that is, Stanford University.

Both sides of Smith’s family are long tied to the land and livestock.

His father was raised on a family farm and Angus ranch in Ohio, and rode a draft horse to school and then to the fields.

Smith’s mother’s mother and uncles had a ranch outside Vallejo. One great-uncle rode with the mounted posse in Solano County.

Smith’s generation spent summers combining wheat in Ohio. After college, he played minor-league baseball before putting his business degree to work for others.

But his heart belonged elsewhere.

He spent the late 1980s and early 1990s breeding cow horses and doing back-country packing. “And I still use horses on the ranch to care for the cows.”

As a businessman and outdoorsman, he enjoys making Martin Ranch Supply an adventure in itself. Inventory ranges from books and gifts to trailer parts, oil skins, high-tech rain gear, horse trailer and training accessories, quality fence cutters, matching saddle scabbards, stall fronts, doors, grilles, shelters, health and grooming supplies, boots and hats.

In addition, staff members tell stories about designing and fabricating an elegant trellis and matching entry gates for a Calistoga winery, a camel trailer for Six Flags Wild Animal Park and providing the San Francisco Zoo with rubber mats for elephants, giraffes and reindeer.

They regularly sell wild hog traps and fencing to keep miniature horses and donkeys in, bears, deer and mountain lions out. The team once enclosed a two-acre pasture for feral cats.

“You wouldn’t believe what we’ve seen and done,” said Smith.

Drop on in. The coffee’s on, and they’re expecting you.

Martin Ranch Supply is at 5980 Redwood Drive, Rohnert Park, 585-1313, martinranchsupply.com. 

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Nick Walden is our Cotati and Penngrove correspondent.
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