Norco is America’s Country

By February 12, 2012
Larry Lumsdon strikes a jaunty hand-on-hip pose in front of America's Country Store.

Larry Lumsdon brings a lifetime love of animals and love of challenge to American's Country Store. (Photo by Paula Parisi)

In today’s economic environment, retail is a battlefield. But if it’s true, as Green Bay Packers coach Vince Lombardi once said, “life’s battles don’t always go to the stronger or faster man, the man who wins is the man who thinks he can,” then Larry Lumsdon has a few things going in his favor. The proprietor of America’s Country Store in Norco knows a thing or two about late rallies.

After being forced to sell his B&E Feed business in 2006 following a stroke, Lumsdon slowly worked to regain his health. His improvement seemed to mirror B&E’s decline, and in June 2011 he was informed that the new owner was filing for bankruptcy protection and vacating the property (which the Lumsdons still owned).

America's Country Store co-owner Ruth Lumsdon poses with cheerful red and green holiday-wrapped gifts.

Ruth Lumsdon is Larry's partner in running the store. They recently celebrated 49 years of marriage. (Photo by Paula Parisi)

Hoisting the flag, this time as America’s Country Store, the Lumsdons enlisted the help of friends and vendors and retook the field. “We re-modeled, re-stocked and re-opened on July 17,” said Lumsdon, whose office door opens directly onto the expansive show floor that is bright, colorful and stocked with a wide variety of feed and supplies for every kind of pet (though they do not carry tack). The space has a distinctive feel, kind of like an upscale barn, and Lumsdon shares the credit for that with the Land O’Lakes Purina Feed Company.

Having outgrown the original B&E location at 1414 Sixth Street, the Lumsdons in 1999 embarked on new construction on three acres just down the block. “Many of our customers remember when this was a vacant lot―before the fire house, the Norco Animal Hospital or the Norco Country Center were built,” he noted. In a convergence of interests, the Lumsdons’ goal of a local superstore meshed with the interests of Purina Mills. “At that particular time, they were looking for feed dealers that wanted to invest in a new concept they called ‘ruralpolitan’―kind of a suburban idea of what a ranch should look like.”

Although the architectural design was handled by Purina, Lumsdon stressed that they have no ownership stake in the store, and said the misperception that ACS is part of a large international conglomerate is something he is continually battling. “Norco is a real community town. People didn’t want a big corporate store here, and that’s not what we are. We are just another local merchant that leveraged a business relationship to better ourselves and expand.”

Manager Wayne Rutherford poses in a bright blue ensemble and cowboy hat in front of some bales of hay.

Manager Wayne Rutherford, strikes a cowboy pose. (Photo by Paula Parisi)

Lumsdon brings authentic small-town values to his Country Store. He grew up in Indiana “in a farming environment. When I was a kid, my father, uncle and grandfather had a business where they would go around and sell feed and things.” At 19, he joined the Air Force and set out to explore the world. He met Ruth in Madrid, where she was working for the Central Intelligence Agency.

They were married in Europe and the first of their two children was born there. After five years abroad the couple returned to the States, relocating to Ruth’s native California. Their first stop was San Gabriel, where Ruth grew up, then they moved to Diamond Bar, planting roots for 17 years as Lumsdon pursued a career in finance and Ruth continued in government work.

“We both found ourselves retired about the same time, but neither of us wanted to be sitting around. We have always loved pets, so we decided to go back to what we loved.” Asked how he found Norco, Lumsdon laughed, and said, “You have to really be looking for it! As it is, we happened upon this little feed store, B&E, and they had an absentee owner and we were able to buy it. So we leased the property and then five years later outgrew it and started in with the plans for this place.”

Though the concept of a pet superstore is fairly commonplace today, back then it was somewhat revolutionary. “You’ll find a number of these stores back East, where Purina put up 50 or 60, but there is only one in California besides ours.” Lumsdon said America’s Country Store is built on the premise that “if you offer the customer a selection of quality products at reasonable prices, combined with a pleasant shopping experience they will want to come back. We still believe this to be true today.”

Man on a forklift loaded with animal feed.

Raul Rivera, who has worked for the Lumsdons for nearly 20 years, replenishes the feed shelves. (Photo by Paula Parisi)

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