Cammack Ranch Supply: Big-Hearted Business in an Unlikely Location
May 24, 2017
In 1973, Gary and Amy Cammack opened the doors to their general store in Stoneville, an unincorporated community in western South Dakota, and when the opportunity to grow their business arose, the Cammacks jumped on it. They purchased the feed mill just down the road in Union Center, opening the doors to Cammack Ranch Supply in the spring of 1979.
The Evolution of a Ranch Supply Store
Around the same time they were setting up shop, Gary and Amy were also starting out with their own ranching operation. Being ranchers themselves gives the Cammacks a unique understanding of the products that work in ranching and has guided the store's main focus – helping livestock owners, and more specifically, cattle producers.
"Always, from our very first day in operation, we have been working to solve problems for producers in the livestock business," said Cammack.
In a business that pretty much lives and dies with the cattle market, it's important to diversify and be in a state of constant evolution, coming up with new products that fit customer needs.
"Something we recently started selling is a completely foldable field harrow that is run on hydraulics. We're getting great feedback from our customers and have been selling out of them just about as fast as we can assemble them," said Cammack.
The store has also made a name for itself over the last 10-20 years selling windbreaks, portable corrals, and most notably, water delivery systems. The store moves roughly 300 miles of pipe each year to ranchers who need a way to get water to their livestock.
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Over the last 38 years, Cammack Ranch Supply has grown from a small local business into a regional business, serving customers in their active trade area that covers as many as six states. With the addition of an online store, they are now able to ship a variety of products nationwide.
Union Center the Unlikely Home of Business
With as few as 50 folks living inside its city limits, Union Center, South Dakota, is what most would probably refer to as an unlikely spot to set up shop. But, don't let this little map dot or its unincorporated status fool you. Union Center is not only the home of Cammack Ranch Supply, but also several other successful, community-minded small businesses.
"Per capita, gross product moved out of Union Center would likely rival any large city in South Dakota. It's always good to have a business on a paved highway," said Cammack.
"Of course being a business person in a small town is not without its challenges. You're always going to have those occasional petty differences of opinion. But at the end of the day you realize, that you need each other," said Cammack.
In addition to their store front and online shop, Cammack Ranch Supply also hosts three major promotional events each year. They kick the year off hosting a booth at the Black Hills Stock Show and Rodeo's trade show, something they have done for all of the 37 years that the Black Hills Stock Show has been held in the Rushmore Plaza Civic Center.
Every April Cammack Ranch Supply hosts their Annual Ag Trade Show and Pancake Feed Anniversary Celebration. This was the 38th year for the two-day event that draws nearly 600 visitors and more than 50 vendors to the Union Center Community Center.
This year also marks the 15th annual Cammack Ranch Supply Rancher Round-up. The Rancher Round-up includes a trade show, ranch rodeo, free steak fry, and some sort of entertainment whether a cowboy poet like Baxter Black or a dance courtesy of a live band.
Cammack Gives Back
"Last year two of or our Union Center residents became ill. Within 30 days of each other, our community held two fundraisers, raising upwards of $30,000 apiece. That type of generosity really speaks to the comradery of rural America," Cammack
It's that type of generosity that Cammack Ranch Supply and several other area businesses and individuals displayed with they sent a semi load of wood posts south, to fire ravaged Ashland, Kansas back in March.
Union Center was at the center of the Atlas Blizzard of October 2013. Nearly 20,000 head of cattle were lost within a 40 mile radius of the small town in west central South Dakota. Of that, the Cammacks personally lost 125 head.
"In the aftermath of Atlas, I was asked to do several interviews. And, I don't think I realized just how much the storm had affected me until I was in front of those reporters. That was the first time I had ever personally experienced devastation like that. And, really we made out fairly good, considering. It was also the first time I had experienced the overwhelming generosity of strangers. It's pretty hard not to pay it forward after something like that," Cammack said.
Gary has also been involved in county and state government for the past several years. He has served as a Meade County commissioner, representative to the South Dakota State House of Representatives, and is currently serving his second term as a state Senator.
In addition, Gary is the sitting president of the South Dakota Retailers Association. His service and advocacy to small business earned Cammack Ranch Supply the 2016 America's Retail Champion of the Year award given by the National Retail Federation.
"Gary is a true grassroots advocate and as a leader in the retail industry, he ensures that retail's voice is heard in a wide range of policy discussions. By staying involved with all levels of government, Gary is helping to advance the public policy agenda for retailers, their employees and customers in communities large and small across America," said NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay on the NRF's website.
In addition to their store, the Cammacks' ranch has also been on the receiving end of national awards. In early 2017, the Cammack Ranch was presented the National Association of Conservation Districts Olin Sims Conservation Leadership Award. The ranch has also been the runner up for the South Dakota Leopold award on more than one occasion.
A Growing Family and Community
Blessed with four boys, the Cammacks are the grandparents to ten grandkids. It isn't just the Cammack family that is experiencing rapid population growth. The Union Center community has also seen a significant influx of young people returning to the area, and that has Gary fairly excited for the future.
"Over the last 10 years, we've seen a fairly large insurgence of young people coming back and settling down in the area. And, it is great! There are 17 kids enrolled in just the kindergarten and first grade – that's huge for our little rural school and our community!" said Cammack.