The Lauderdale County Farm Supply and Garden Center, more commonly known as the Co-op, was founded 75 years ago by a group of farmers who bought shares of stock in the company, which dealt in farming supplies.

Today, the Co-op is “pretty much like a Wal-Mart store, but smaller,” according to nursery manager Al Davis. “We have a nursery, statuaries, a gift shop, clothing, pet supplies, and of course feed, seed, and fertilizer.”

The store also sells aquariums and supplies, but is planning to phase out some of the fish it sells, due to the surprising problem of fish theft.

Food can also be added to the list of items available for purchase at the Co-op, with the gift shop selling things like Indianola pecans and custom gift baskets.

The Co-op, which has around 30 employees, is owned by its many stockholders, and operated by General Manager Ron James and the several managers of its smaller departments. Business there is booming, with the past December being what Davis calls “the best one yet.”

Though the store may be smaller than a Wal-Mart, it has a larger selection of unique items, including many garden statues, stained glass hangings, pond coy, custom and home-spun gifts, and numerous lawn and garden decorations. The gift shop currently has a large amount of left-over Christmas merchandise on sale, including many unique, whimsical ornaments.

Like most retailers of Christmas decor, Davis will be heading to market later this month to get new Christmas merchandise for 2008 and find out, many months ahead of the rest of us, what this year’s Christmas trends will be.

Despite the holiday boom retailers see in December, Davis says the Co-op’s biggest season is Spring, when people flock in to stock their gardens with plants and decor.

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