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SBA Assistance Helps Third-Generation Business Grow

Bardstown Mills Management Team

Bardstown Mills was incorporated in 1952 as an animal feed business. Prior to that, the company was a woolen mill that began in 1820 in the Bardstown, KY area. In 1890, the business was converted to a flour mill until the present company was formed in 1952.

This is the oldest operating business in the central Kentucky area and one of the oldest in state. Bardstown Mills buys grains from local farmers and has the only grain elevator in Nelson County. The company has the capability to manufacture feed for just about any type of animal and sells feed both wholesale and retail.

Bardstown Mills has continued its farming tradition with a new 15,000 square foot retail center that was financed with an SBA 504 loan. In the new building, the company offers a full line of local produce, honey, fresh eggs, farm supplies, feeding and watering equipment, fencing and gates, hay and straw, medications, animal health aides, pet supplies, farm toys, work clothing, boots, gardening seeds and fertilizers. There is a dog washing and grooming station, a new archery range and an outdoor equipment center with a complete line of commercial mowers. Staff also offers agriculture seminars.

Bardstown Mills is a family owned business. Owner Tom Hurst worked with his father, who founded the company over 60 years ago, and two of Mr. Hurst’s sons also work in the business. One is the general manager and oversees the 12,000 square foot warehouse.  The other son handles IT needs and social media.

SBA Assistance: Bardstown Mills received two SBA 504 loans. Capital Access Corporation in Louisville, KY, an SBA certified development company, and Your Community Bank in Bardstown, an SBA lender, were involved. The loans were for two buildings, equipment and other costs for the project, according to Howard Keene, Your Community Bank’s Market Manager for Nelson County.

Number of employees: There are 9 full-time and 3 – 4 part-time employees; 5 jobs were created with the 504 loans.

Staying power: Bardstown Mills is a third generation family-owned company in an agricultural business that can trace its roots back almost 200 years. Studies have shown that less than 15% of companies survive to the third generation, and management expects to have the fourth generation working in the business in the foreseeable future.

Response to adversity or problems: Over the past few decades, the farm supply wholesale and retail business has changed dramatically. Several decades ago, Bardstown Mills did about 95% of its sales in the sale of dairy and hog feed. However, the number of dairy farms in that area of the state dropped from 125 in the 1970s to just 6 today. The hog farm industry has seen a similar contraction. Therefore, Bardstown Mills had to recreate itself several times over the past few decades. Also, the past five years have been very challenging for an independent rural business trying to survive during one of the most severe economic recessions since the 1930s.

Community Involvement:  Bardstown Mills is involved in many area dog-related events each year, including dog shows, dog training events and races, and the company often makes donations to support these programs. The company also is involved in the development of a new dog park in Nelson County and often donates dog food at cost for regional pet events. Bardstown Mills also hosts an annual customer appreciation event, with live music, entertainment for children, contests and prizes for attendees. Employees also offer free in-store educational programs for customers throughout the year.

Learn more about SBA’s loan programs, free counseling services and other small business programs at, your lender, and your local Small Business Development Center (SBDC), SCORE Chapter or Women’s Business Center.