One of the most popular places in the area for outdoor supplies, as well as a vast array of other items, is the Belle Mead Co-Op, located on Township Line Road in Hillsborough.
In addition, the Co-Op provides feed for a variety of animals, notes manager Kevin Lyon. “We have animal food for everything from gerbils to cows! That includes birds, chickens, sheep, goats, horses, and dogs, and cats. We make the feed here, including special mixes for all the animals. We buy the feed ingredients from the local farmers, and then they buy the feed from us.”
The Belle Mead Co-Op is by no means a newcomer to the area. Its history dates back more than 90 years to 1920, when area farmers brought their hay there to be shipped.
As Mr. Lyon explains, “The large barn in front of the store was constructed at the turn of the century, and was operated as a hay press. The press was powered by horses in the cellar, and the farmers would bring loose hay here to be pressed into bales and loaded on railroad cars. That same barn now displays 84 solar panels that supply the business with a good portion of its electricity. The railroad sidings gave the store its unique shape, as they ran behind the store and to the front and rear of the old barn. Rail cars would load up on coal and water here, then pick up hay to take up north to the horse farms.”
The retail store opened in 1953, and it is filled with an array of items, bringing to mind the general store of times past combined with an up-to-date hardware store of today. There is so much to see that walking up and down the aisles is a constant adventure.
If you have a pet, it is definitely the place to go. Dog and cat food, leashes, collars, and various supplies and toys are all available.
Many people feed the birds year round, and Belle Mead Co-Op has everything for our feathered friends. Seed of all kinds, every type of feeder, including specialties for hummingbirds and others, are on display.
In addition, customers will find jeans and Carhartt sweat shirts, caps, gardening gloves, as well as flags and fly swatters, and New Jersey honey. A complete supply of tools and outdoor needs, including shovels, brooms, pruners, hoses, and wheelbarrows.
An intriguing and very beneficial item is the lady bug! “They eat a lot of insects, including aphids,” notes Mr. Lyon. “We sell 1500 for $11.99. We also have preying mantises, which eat aphids too.”
Plants, including all the annuals and perennials, are in stock, with the exception of New Guinea impatiens. Mulch, fertilizers, grass seed, and top soil are all available, and planters of every kind are also on display.
“We have a complete nursery,” points out Mr. Lyon. “Originally, it was 1.3 acres; now it is 10. We purchased eight acres of property in 1998 in order to expand our landscape and nursery supply offerings.”
A variety of mulch samples is available, as well as landscaping decorative gravel and stones, including River Rock.
Homeowners struggling with the deer who not only eat plants but often devour bird feed as well will appreciate the Hot Pepper Wax product, which can be sprayed on the bird feeders to repel the deer. “It doesn’t harm the birds, but it keeps the deer away,” reports Mr. Lyon.
“Many of our customers are interested in having vegetable gardens,” he continues. “We have vegetables and plants, including tomatoes, potatoes, and onions, among others.”
Families and Farmers
Dog houses and rabbit hutches, benches and bird baths, wind chimes, water garden supplies (including fish), propane gas — all are available at Belle Mead Co-Op.
Customers are of long-standing, says Mr. Lyon, who has been with Belle Mead Co-Op for 17 years. “Our customers are from all over the area; they’re all ages and backgrounds, and include families and farmers. I enjoy talking with them, and many I’ve known a long time. We have so many regulars, and we get new people all the time too because the area is growing. We are always happy to give advice on the plants or any products if people want help.”
Prices are competitive, he adds, and sales are always ongoing. Special coupons are offered on the company’s website.
“We continue to do well,” says Mr. Lyon. “People like to come here. They appreciate the history, our core products, and our knowledge.”
They also like to visit the warehouse, which features the feed mill, where grain is mixed, and other vintage equipment is housed.
Belle Mead Co-Op is open Monday through Friday 7:30 a.m. to 6 p.m., Saturday until 5, Sunday 9 to 4. (908) 359-5173. Website: www.bellemeadcoop.com.