Before there was a University Drive and UTRGV, there was Harriman Drive and Pan American College in Edinburg.
Harriman was where Al Martin started Martin Farm & Ranch Supply in 1955. There’s an old photo of Al in a hat looking at his products through a store window with a long sign above him touting “Feed, Seed, Fertilizer, Insecticides.”
“Daddy has us working all the time,” said Doug Martin of he and his seven siblings. “We always had a party going on.”
Parties in this case meant the Martin boys unloading 150-pound burlap bags of Purina cattle feed coming in by rail by the old train station near present day University of Texas-Rio Grande Valley on what is now called University Drive. It was the sort of sweat, persistence and work ethic that built Martin Farm & Ranch into a mainstay Edinburg business.
Martin’s is today a three generation family business. It moved north of town in 1977 in what was then out in the country on Monte Cristo Road. There would be room for growth out there, a banker told Al Martin. Ranchers would not have to go into town to get their supplies. It would turn out to be a wise move as today Martin’s is located in the midst of one of Edinburg’s more active growth corridors.
Doug Martin as his father’s successor has stuck to selling animal feeds while diversifying the business. There is livestock fencing, lawn and garden items, western boots, pet supplies and one other item Martin has always offered.
“We’ve got baby chicks,” Martin said. “We’ve always sold baby chickens.”
Martin reflected on his family’s years of business and ties to Edinburg during a recent tour of his six-acre, multi-building business that includes a new feed warehouse.
“We feel like it’s our town,” he said of Edinburg. “My Dad was in everything, (community activities), and we’ve been part of it for a long time. It’s a community that has been so supportive, but at the same time, if we don’t keep it up, we won’t be here tomorrow.”
Edinburg’s growth northward up U.S. Highway 281 has made urban residents a little more country. The transition of city folks wanting more space to live and having some rural aspects of life has been a good trend for Martin’s in diversifying its customer base.
“People moving out of town to have more space means they might want to have a tractor and a little livestock and put up a fence,” Martin said. “The growth out here has been beneficial for us.”
The months of doing business during the COVID-19 era have been good for Martin’s as well. Staying close to home and having more time to work on projects has led to a surge in business.
Customers walk into the north Edinburg business and Martin and his staff greet them warmly and know them by name. It still has a country store feel and the vibe of a place where you feel at home. The connection to customers is what keeps Martin’s going.
“Customer service is all we have to sell,” Doug Martin said. “We try to make customer problems our problems.”
Doug has his son, Greg, as the next Martin ready to take leadership of the business as it heads toward its 70th year in business.