News of Tractor Supply sparks discussion about development

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By SEAN SHAPIRO

Major retail chains are starting to take notice of Liberty Hill’s rapid growth, and Tractor Supply Company may be the next business that wants to tap into the growing market.

Liberty Hill City Manager Greg Boatright announced last week at a Planning and Zoning Commission meeting that Tractor Supply Company planned to build a new store on Loop 332.

Boatright later confirmed in a phone interview with The Independent that a representative from a firm representing Tractor Supply told him about the potential new store. He also confirmed the City has not worked with the company in any capacity about a new location for Tractor Supply.

Representatives from Tractor Supply would not confirm the purchase of the land or a new store, but did indicate Liberty Hill would fit the store’s target demographic.

“Tractor Supply Company (TSC) is always looking for potential new store locations that are a good fit as far as the target market is concerned,” Rob Hoskins, a media relations representative with Tractor Supply, wrote in an e-mail to The Independent. “Concerning a potential location in Liberty Hill, this is especially true in that the area is attractive due to the part-time and hobby farmers, and horse owners in the area. The TSC product category expertise includes lawn and garden, and animal care products that service the needs of these customers.”

Liberty Hill would be the ninth Tractor Supply location in Central Texas, according to the company website. The company, which operates 1,100 stores in 44 states, already has stores established nearby in Cedar Park and Georgetown.

While the company has not officially confirmed it, the City’s announcement of its location in Liberty Hill is already receiving some blowback from the community.

A post on the newspaper’s Facebook page received 38 comments on it within 48 hours of posting Sept. 16, many decrying a potential Tractor Supply location in Liberty Hill. Many of those posts quickly came to the defense of Winkley’s General Store, a family-owned business that serves a similar demographic to Tractor Supply. Many vowed to continue shopping at the family-owned local business with some adding that they did not want to see Liberty Hill become home to “big box stores”.

Tractor Supply is a multi-purpose hardware and supply store. In addition to hardware and tools, Tractor Supply also sells fencing, livestock feed and supplies, work clothing and welding equipment, among other items.

Maria Winkley, who owns the store with her husband, Chris Winkley, said many of those supporters reached out directly to her family.

“Some good customers called Chris right away,” Mrs. Winkley said. “Then the next day many loyal customers came into the store. It was nice to see that support.”

The site announced by the City as the location for the Tractor Supply store is close to Winkley’s, which . The four-acre property on Loop 332 currently is home to a long-vacated and dilapidated two-story house that is known to longtime Liberty Hill residents as the Park place.

A direct competitor in Liberty Hill, the first since the store opened 2003, could force Winkley’s to evaluate some of the pricing and products it supplies, the owners say.

“We’re going to have to review things, but we’re ready and we’re happy,” Mrs. Winkley said. “We understand this country is based on supply and demand. We understand that … I think there is enough room for both of us and we will change as needed. If we have to adjust some pricing or something, we’ll be ready.”

The same growth that is attracting Tractor Supply has been fruitful for Winkley’s the past 11 years.

The store opened with two employees and was more of a typical hardware store. Today, the store has grown to 10 employees and offers a large inventory, which has been defined by the community.

“We have grown because of the community, and we were happy to do so,” Mrs. Winkley said. “Everything we’ve done has been to fit the needs of this community.”

Tractor Supply is not the first chain to target Liberty Hill this year. Earlier this summer, Chicken Express, a fast-food franchise with more than 170 locations, opened a new restaurant on State Highway 29. The local business, owned by Clay Jones of Brady, was the first new restaurant to open in the city since Sonic opened in 2008.

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