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Veterninarians change with times

WALCOTT -- In 39 years of practicing veterinary medicine in Walcott, Dr. Kenneth Wilcke has seen many changes in the relationship between people and animals.

Soon, he and partner Dr. James Berger, will open Walcott Town and Country Feed and Seed to accommodate some of those changes, offering clients in and around Walcott a new and convenient idea in purchasing pet food and odds and ends that could make living far outside of town a little easier.

What sort of changes inspired the new business?

Around the beginning of the 20th century, veterinarians were charged with the care of animals vital to transportation and the farm economy: cattle, hogs and horses.

But at the end of the century, animals have earned a new place in American life.

Horses exist today mostly for pleasure, having been replaced as a mainstay of transportation and hauling by farm tractors, motorized vehicles and railroads.

And dogs and cats have become ever more important as members of American families.

As a consequence, many veterinarians have broadened their large animal focus to include pet animals, and the pet-food market has grown into a booming business, with pet owners often wanting higher quality food than is traditionally offered in outlying areas.

Dr. Wilcke said many of his clients are women. They're often elderly, and they often own large dogs.

``Many of our clients have commented that when they go places to buy large bags of pet food, there's no one to load the 40- or 50-pound bags into the cars for them,'' said Dr. Wilcke.

``We thought if we had a facility where customers could drive through, we could load the big bags for them, then they could drag it out themselves or get some help when they got home,'' he said.

Walcott Town and Country Feed & Seed is a separate entity from the veterinary clinic, but the veterinarians figured they already know the pet-food business, since it's related to their day jobs.

The 6,500-square-foot building, located just off U.S. 6, to the north and east of the Walcott Veterinary Clinic, is large enough to allow customers to drive through.

``The whole concept,'' said Dr. Berger, ``is that if people choose to, they can drive right into the building, be waited on, get their purchases and drive out. In small-animal vet practices, females tend to drive decisions on pet-food purchases. But women are often working, they have children, pets and not a lot of time, so convenience is important to them."

The new store will carry bird seed, hay, straw and water-conditioner salt. In addition, Dr. Wilcke said, it will carry V-belts for lawn mowers and other small engines.

``We also have an inventory of $3,000 worth of nuts, bolts and washers,'' he said.

But most importantly, the business will carry some of the major brands of quality pet food, such as Iams, Eukanuba, Science Diet, Nutro and Waltham foods, as well as some lower-cost brands, other pet supplies, bird houses and bird feeders.

``Maybe our prices won't be as low as the warehouse-type pet stores, but we'll do our best to stay competitive,'' Dr. Berger said. ``It takes time and money to drive to the bigger places, and here they won't be fighting the weather, traffic or other problems, so we're hoping the convenience can offset higher costs.''

Walcott Town and Country Feed & Seed is expected to open between March 1 and April 1 with early morning, evening and weekend hours to maximize convenience.

For more information, call (319) 284-6444.

-- By Catherine Guy

Copyright 1999, Moline Dispatch Publishing Co.