Lyssy & Eckel Feeds: A History of Progress, Family and Excellence
One company, two families and an ongoing commitment to serving Texans.
By Meg Drake
At the corner of Highway 181 and East Westmeyer street, right next to one of the busiest stoplights in Poth, Texas, sits a business that has been committed to values such as family, service and progress for over 72 years. This business is Lyssy & Eckel Feeds.
Lyssy & Eckel first opened its doors in 1945. At the helm, were owners A.W. Eckel Jr. and Ed Lyssy. The original store was located in what is now the Lyssy & Eckel storefront parking lot.
“The first mill was here in downtown Poth,” recalled Ronnie Eckel, the second generation in his family to co-manage the feed company. “In 1967 we moved the mill to our existing mill location. That’s when we first built a grain elevator, and then in 1970 we built a new feed mill there in that same location.”
To many Poth residents, the Lyssy & Eckel feed mill is a familiar and welcomed sight. “The football field sits right next to the mill,” said Julie Eckel, Ronnie’s daughter-in-law and marketing manager for the company. “I have so many parents tell me how much they love the smell of the mill making feed and how it has become a staple in their Friday night light memories.”
Since opening in 1945, family has been a common theme in the feed company’s growth and success. “Keith Lyssy is the third generation of the Lyssy family to be involved in the business, I’m the second generation in my family and my kids are the third generation of the Eckel’s,” explained Ronnie. “We’ve had a good partnership for 72 years now.”
However, working closely with family comes with its own set of challenges and heartache. “My brother Gerald, passed away two weeks ago. For 45 years, from the time we were kids, we worked together,” said Ronnie. “It’s exciting to work with family but it’s also hard. When you lose someone, a big chunk of that family is no longer there. It’s very emotional.”
However, working closely with family creates many fond, cherished memories. “When I was 10 to 12 years old, I worked at the store sweeping warehouses. One of my memories from that time is of my grandfather. He was retired by then, but he still came in every morning,” said Keith. “He’d come in and weigh himself on the scale outside to see if he was eating too much. I can’t wait until it’s my turn to stop by in the morning to check on kids and grandkids.”
Currently, many Lyssy and Eckel family members work together to ensure the success and progress of the feed company, including Ronnie’s oldest son William Eckel, who currently serves as the Feed Mill Manager and his wife Julie. Ronnie’s middle child Marie, who works in the Poth feed store and her husband, Barrett Orth who serves as the company’s Maintenance Supervisor. Charles Eckel, Ronnie’s youngest manages the Lyssy & Eckel Llano location. Keith’s brother, Karl Lyssy and brother-in-law, Marty Kowalik are also partners in the business and have been serving the company for many years.
EXPANDING THE BUSINESS
Along with family, customer service is another theme that’s highly valued at Lyssy & Eckel. In every facet of running their business, Lyssy & Eckel keeps the customer in mind. Originally, this customer was Texas cattlemen and women. Since then, their customer base has expanded and so have their feeds.
“From the very beginning we milled cattle feed and up until the late 1980s this is all we were producing,” said Ronnie. “Up until we saw that people were beginning to fence ranches and manage deer and were starting to feed deer so we decided to begin manufacturing a deer feed.”
When the correlation between deer feed and increased antler size was made, business in the hunting and wildlife sector began to takeoff for the company. Today, the deer feed business continues to be one of Lyssy & Eckel’s fastest growing sectors. “It has been 28 years now that we’ve been making deer feeds,” said Ronnie. “We continue to improve those feeds as we continue to learn things out the field.”
When it comes to producing a new feed ration, like their deer supplements, Lyssy & Eckel relies upon a stringent research and development process. “We have tested over 3000 browse plants, forbs and grasses,” said Ronnie. “We feel like we have a very good understanding of what deer need through our work in scientific breeder pens and through our testing the browse and forbs out in the pasture. Now it’s just a matter of making a supplement to provide them what the pasture is not.”
As they continue to expand into different regions of Texas, Ronnie noted that plant research will continue to be an ongoing process. “We’re currently funding a two year research project with the the Borderlands Research Institute at Sul Ross State University,” said Ronnie. “They’re testing browse plants from all of the different soil types and elevations in the Trans-Pecos. We like to be able to build feeds for different areas and so far it has worked.”
Recently, the company has also explored and expanded into the equine feeding business. “When we bought the store in Llano we hired a very bright young lady: Jamie Miller,” said Ronnie. “She called me one day and said she saw a lot of potential in the horse business in this area and she would like to work to develop the horse feed business.”
Since this conversation, the company has invested into researching and developing a horse feed called Stamina EX. Ronnie explained that he and the rest of the company were very pleased with the outcome of the new feed, which has been very well received among horse owners.
Along with expanding into different feeding markets the company has also expanded into owning and operating four different feed store locations. Aside from the original store in Poth, Lyssy & Eckel Feeds also owns locations in Llano, Hondo and George West, Texas.
The bulk of all Lyssy & Eckel product, however, is shipped from the mill in Poth. “We ship out about 1 to 1.2 million pounds of feed per day,” said William Eckel, feed mill manager.
COMMITTED TO THE CUSTOMER
One thing that has kept the feed company in business for over 72 years is their commitment to helping and offering advice to customers.
“We’re constantly offering customers recommendations and advice based on if we were in their current situation,” said Keith. “No one here at Lyssy & Eckel works off of commission so there is no pressure to make a sale. We just as often talk someone out of buying something as we do talk them into buying something.”
With their focus primarily on serving Texans, the company has been able to hone their supplemental feeds toward helping producers in different regions of the state. “We do ship feeds into Mexico. We see some business from Mississippi, New Mexico and Oklahoma, but our focus is Texas. This is where we want to keep our focus,” said Ronnie.
Ronnie and Keith both work diligently to build and nurture lasting relationships with customers. Part of their daily routine includes speaking with customers on the phone and in person when they come to pick up feed in the storefront parking lot.
“It all goes back to how we try to treat the customer as if they were ourself and it was our own livestock we were trying to take care of,” said Keith. “Whether a customer is buying a truckload a week from us or one bag a week, we try to treat everyone the same. We give each and every customer the same amount of attention, advice and help.”
LYSSY & ECKEL IN THE FUTURE
The company plans to stay committed to core values that laid the foundation for a successful feed business, but Ronnie explained that they also understand the need to progress and evolve with the times.
“We’re using more all natural additives to fight pathogens and health issues in animals now,” said Ronnie. “The feeds that we make, if you as a human wanted to get what we put into our feeds, you would have to go to a Whole Foods or Central Market to get the types of minerals, trace minerals and vitamins that we use. We use the best ingredients out there.”
The company has also begun to notice a succession in some of the accounts they service. “There are several ranches now where their children or grandchildren are involved,” said Keith. “There’s always an evolution into the next person running the ranch.”
One thing is certain however, the company will continue to put the customer at the forefront of all its decisions. “Everything is evolving, but it’s still a matter of helping the customer,” said Ronnie. “I think the next 70 years look great for Lyssy & Eckel Feeds.”
To learn more about the company and the different feeds they offer, visit lefeeds.com.