and their livestock.
Backyard birders flock to the wild bird center, embellished in rustic cedar wood, to peruse unique birdhouses,
foods, educational materials and other supplies.
“We do a pretty good business and even went to a bird
school to study what our local birds eat and the types of
houses they require,” she says.
Year-round, an indoor farm featuring five self-sufficient hydroponic towers cultivates organic produce for
pets and people.
“We grow different types of lettuces and kale intended
for those feeding raw to their pets,” she says. “We har-
vest all year long and don’t have to worry about bugs or
On the sales floor, a hydroponic “flower tower” offers
vibrant blossoms and cat grass for customers to clip.
“It’s just a quirky thing we do, and it’s always free,”
An irresistible spin of the “affirmation wheel,” located
at the newly installed cash-wrap counter, sends shoppers
back out into the world with smiles and a positive vibe.
Food selections at Flying M Feed Co. run the gamut
of dehydrated, raw, canned and kibble at a wide range
of price points.
“We have some really controversial choices, but we
can defend them,” she says. “We noticed that some cus-
tomers were coming into our store and spending $100 on
a bag of high-end dog food, and then going two doors
down to the discount store and buying grocery-brand
To remedy this situation and promote a one-stop-shop
designation, affordable foods and treats with high name
recognition are in the mix. The aim of Flying M Feed Co.
is to serve the community, and that objective includes ca-
tering to lower-income residents.
“We believe in the highest-quality foods, but not ev-
eryone wants a lecture about raw feeding,” she added. “If
some in our community want to purchase the checker-
board brand that they know and love, then we provide it
for them, but our goal is to educate customers about basic
nutrition. That’s our approach.”
An organic treat bar and a variety of chews and bones
are also available to meet an array of pet needs.
“Our staff is well trained, and we really try to educate
our customers and to understand their goal in treating
their dog—reward, timeout, teeth cleaning, etc.,” she says.
“We put a lot of thought into how we sell our chews.”
In order to assist staff members with special needs in
helping customers in both food and treat selections, color
coordinated dots designate specific product functions.
Delivery is offered as a courtesy to customers in need.
“We do it mainly to help people that might have
health issues or are unable to get out for whatever reason,” Menchaca says.
THREE GENERATIONS STRONG
Menchaca takes pride in the fact that three generations
of women are involved in Flying M Feed Co. operations.
“My mom, Melba, runs the office and my daughter,
Lea, is in charge of HR and scheduling,” she says.
The entrepreneur considers her staff members to be integral to providing an extraordinary shopping experience.
“Our motto goes way beyond the old school way of
thinking that the customer is always right; it’s more like
the customer is always astonished,” she says.
Education is a central component to this astounding
For this reason, training is ongoing at M University,
a weekly program of instruction. Following the semester system, students receive a syllabus, with a calendar,
schedule and written materials. Nutritional knowledge,
store operations and customer service skills are taught by
Menchaca or manufacturer representatives.
Once students complete final exams, a holiday party
fetes the end of the winter semester, and in the spring,
students take to the bowling lanes to celebrate.
New associates enter Boot Camp, where in-depth,
foundational training takes place before they head out to
the sales floor.
“Turnover is rare, but we look for upbeat, fun people
who want to work and amaze our customers,” she says.
Menchaca is particularly proud of a recent program
offering employment to young adults with special needs
through a partnership with The Monarch School and Insti-
tute in Houston, which serves students and young adults
with neurological differences.
“These young people are ready to work, and they
make the best employees,” she says. “We have tai-
lored our training and procedures to support these staff
Saturdays are festive and fun at Flying M Feed Co.
“We might have an educational event covering dog
food, or wild bird products, or things of that nature,”
Community outreach is an essential component. For
instance, monthly dog washes benefit Paws Abilities, a
nonprofit organization serving individuals with intellectual disabilities as they learn to care for animals and seek
employment in the animal care sector.
“Students of the program bring their own tubs and
set up in the parking lot to raise money to open their own
little café,” she says. “It’s a festival atmosphere, and we
also hold an adoption day in conjunction.”
Ten percent of sales on that day are donated to the
participating rescue. In addition, foods and product are
“We have always donated slow-moving products, so
we’ll put a package together of dog food, treats and other
items,” she says.
Giving back also includes contributions to local Future Farmers of America clubs, high school bands, drama clubs, the arts in Houston, brain injury and cancer
research, and various social issues.
Another Saturday is earmarked for Modern Farmgirl
craft parties. Mimosas are served, and the mood is exuberant. The get-together often stretches far beyond the
allocated two hours.
“I lead the craft workshop, so they’re always edgy and
campy,” Menchaca says. “Once we made terrariums us-
ing Barbie Doll parts.”
Participants receive a Girl Scout-type badge symboliz-
ing the completed project.
The annual Cat-A-Palooza event is Menchaca’s personal favorite. Specially designed T-shirts are available,
Pet Product News International January 2019
What is Flying M Feed Co. best known for?
Trace Menchaca: We strive to astonish our customers with
What is the greatest challenge for the independent pet
Menchaca: While I might say online retailers, I feel the real
challenge is more about building a brand and establishing trust.
In this world of recalls and unknowns, we are all about creating
For the pet industry overall?
Menchaca: The biggest challenge is misinformation. There’s one
study that comes out, and then another—feed this, feed that.
This is an issue.
Are you watching any interesting trends right now?
Menchaca: Foods with grain is trending. Plus, everyone is trying
to find the next, great, groundbreaking boutique item.
What do you see for the future?
Menchaca: I would love to open a second location, plus growing
our disability program is a major goal.
IT’S A RETAIL LIFE
The wild bird center features products for backyard birders. Flying M Feed Co. shows off its honors.