Longtime Rosedale Mills Family Store Offers Pet, Garden, and Farm Supplies
FULL SERVICE: “Rosedale is not just a pet store, or just a feed store, or just a garden store. It is all of these — but more. We have a very loyal clientele. They really appreciate the one-stop shopping we offer with all the pet, horse, and livestock products, and garden needs, as well as our great selection of bird feeders, houses, and feed — and so much more.” John Hart Jr., owner of Rosedale Mills in Pennington, shown with business partner Beth Scheuerlein, looks forward to helping customers in person, with delivery or drive-thru pick-up service.
By Jean Stratton
Family businesses were once the mainstay of shopping across the country, and certainly in New Jersey. As times and shopping strategies have changed, fewer and fewer of these once prolific establishments now define the streetscapes of our towns and neighborhoods.
How special it is then when a longtime family-owned and operated business continues to serve its customers.
Rosedale Mills, located at 101 Route 31 North (at Titus Mill Road), is such an establishment. Now known as an “America’s Country Store” and designated as a Purina Company Signature Design (the only one in New Jersey), it offers a spacious 12,000-square-foot setting. Although a state-of-the-art facility, it still retains the feeling of a country store, reminiscent of the feed and general merchandise stores of the 19th and early 20th centuries.
Indeed, Rosedale Mills has a long history, dating to the mid-1850s, when it was a water-powered feed and sawmill. Originally located on Carter Road near Rosedale Road, the mill may have derived its name from the abundance of roses in the area.
Pet and Garden
Joseph Hunt (great-grandfather of current owner John Hart Jr.) owned the mill from 1902 until 1943, when it was moved to Alexander Road. After John Hart Sr. took over in 1950, the focus became feed for cattle. But as farmers began to sell their land, the emphasis shifted to pet and garden supplies.
Also, supplies for horses became important, and a variety of equine needs were — and are — a significant part of the business.
Of course, other changes have occurred over the years, and now pet food and products, bird feeders and supplies, and gardening needs are increasingly in demand.
“Bird feeding has become more and more popular,” reports John Hart Jr., who grew up in the family business. “Many people used to feed birds only in the winter, but now they’re doing it year-round. They enjoy watching them come to the feeders. We have all kinds of bird feed, as well as bird houses and feeders, including special feeders for hummingbirds.”
“People are also more interested in gardening now,” he continues. “They want to spend more time in their backyard gardens. There is increasing interest in organic gardening too, as people want safe food. It can also be a fun family activity, and gardening is known to be a way to relieve stress.”
Stress relief is especially important today, as people try to find ways to cope with COVID-19, and the necessity of spending more time at home. Being outside can be helpful, and watching the beauty of a garden unfold after careful planting and tending is certainly a welcome sight.
Although the coronavirus is on everyone’s mind, customers are continuing to come to the store, says Hart. “They are being careful — keeping a safe distance, and wearing masks, but they still like to come in, and everyone — all our staff, as well as the customers — is being very careful.
“We also offer curbside pick-up service, if customers call ahead with an order, and, in addition, we deliver.”
Another area that has become an especially significant part of Rosedale Mills’ business is pet food and pet supplies. Forty different high-quality brands of cat and dog food are available, as well as a large variety of dog collars, leashes, coats, and assorted pet beds, cat perches, litter boxes, and pet toys of all kinds.
People want healthier food for their pets now, points out Hart, and Rosedale offers a complete range of choices.
A Pet Parlor grooming center is available for dogs of all breeds and sizes, and Rosedale is also host to pet adoptions every three weeks. It serves as the location for various animal organizations, including SAVE, which bring in dogs for adoption.
This has become even more important now, as many more people are adopting dogs and cats during the COVID-19 outbreak. Since they must spend more time at home, individuals and families are seeking the companionship and comfort of four-legged friends.
Another program that Rosedale supports is Curbside Kibble, in association with Crossings Animal Society (CAS). This program helps ensure that families in need will be able to feed their pets. Those who wish to help can become a sponsor by donating the cost of a family’s pet food for one month or longer. Information on this program is available at TheCrossingsAnimalSociety.com.
Rosedale Mills also provides a wide supply of equine and livestock feed and products, including halters and bedding for horses, as well as health care remedies. In addition, the store is also involved in a program to help families in need provide food for their horses.
Increasing numbers of people are opting to have fresh eggs produced from their own chickens, reports Hart. “This is getting really popular, and we are selling lots of chicks of all kinds. As people have started getting interested in organic food and eating healthier, they now want their own eggs, right in their own backyard. This is not just people on farms; it is in neighborhoods all over the area, including Princeton.
“We just got in 250 two-day-old chicks of various breeds, and they are now available for purchase. We also sell a lot of different chicken coops.”
Wanting fresh produce is another important trend today, and for serious fresh food buffs this involves planting their own vegetable garden, he adds. Rosedale has long been a supplier of seeds, vegetable plants, and herbs — and of course, for flower gardens, too.
“Now is the time when you can plant cold crops, such as lettuce, broccoli, cauliflower, and peas,” he explains. “As for the flowers — the annuals — such as impatiens, petunias, geraniums, etc. — shouldn’t be planted until mid-May, when the chance of frost is gone.”
All the gardening needs — including mulch, topsoil, potting soil, peat moss, grass seed, fertilizers, and so on — are available, along with a full range of garden tools, pots, and planters.
Deer and rabbit repellants are in full supply and are necessary to prevent the garden from becoming a popular “deer diner” or Peter Rabbit favorite!
In addition, a selection of outdoor furniture, patio umbrellas, and grills is also on hand, as are outdoor sheds, which are also very popular. Excellent storage areas for lawn mowers, tools, and other items, the sheds are under the management of Bill Hart, John’s brother.
Rosedale also features a fishing section, including fishing rods, bait, and other supplies, and recently added is a hardware store-type setting, with a variety of hardware items such as nails, screws, tools, and paint all in stock.
Being part of the community is important to Rosedale, and has always been a priority, notes Hart. “We sponsor a number of regional organizations, including animal shelters such as SAVE and others, baseball and football teams, the Girl Scouts, and other area groups.”
In addition, he has his own local FM radio commercial on WPST 94.5 in which he regularly shares information about Rosedale’s products and services.
Like many brick-and-mortar establishments today, Rosedale Mills faces the challenge of online competition As Hart points out, however, “People forget when they order online that they can’t get the advice and personal attention that we offer, and that they can get when they actually come here. It’s our years of experience and knowledgeable service that sets us apart.”
In addition, Rosedale Mills offers a wide price range, including special sales and offers such as the VIP program in which participants can receive a savings when they have purchased a specific dollar amount.
As someone who grew up in the family business, John Hart is proud to carry on the Rosedale tradition. “I like helping the customers,” he says. “Many are longtime clients who remember my parents, John and Bettie Hart, when they were in charge, and some are families with three generations coming here.
“We enjoy advising them about their gardens and helping with whatever questions they have. They know they can count on knowledgeable service and information. And they can be sure we are here to stay to continue to serve them.”
Rosedale Mills is open seven days: Monday through Friday 7:30 a.m. to 6 p.m., Saturday 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Sunday 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. (609) 737-2008. Website: www.rosedalemills.com.