SUPPLYING MANTECA FARMERS
Manteca Feed & Supply opened in 1946 One founder, Edythe Sealey, now 103
It was a partnership that brought feed and farm supplies to Manteca area farmers in 1946 with the opening of Manteca Feed & Supply.
“Curley” Sealey and Charlie Bates started delivering feed and supplies to area farmers with their large red and white checkered flatbed delivery trucks with the opening of Manteca Feed & Supply on North Main Street 72 years ago.
Sealey and his wife Edythe along with their four children left the Sealey family farm near Central City, Nebraska in 1942 to settle in Manteca. With a love of farming and livestock, he believed a feed store would be a great addition to Manteca.
Edythe, 103, now resides in the Bethany Home Assisted Living facility known as Bethhaven in Ripon. She raised their four children Donna, Donald, Darwin “Cooney” and Darlene. Charlie and Edna Bates joined the Sealys in the feed store with their two sons Leonard and Bob.
The feed store was first opened on North Main Street, just a block north of Yosemite
Avenue, in a building shared with Oscar Breitenbucher’s Joaquin Tire Shop which later became the site of the Western Auto Store on the west side of Main Street. Son Don Breitenbucher was 9 years old at the time and would hang out around his dad’s shop and sweep the floors in those early days. He was later mentored by his dad to run the shop followed by his son David.
Manteca Feed then moved across Main Street to another building that was once the home of Bobson Cleaners and shared a parking lot with Mike’s Market owned by the Piccinini family. Mike Piccinini went on to found Save Mart markets and become the firm’s CEO years later.
It was Curley’s sense of humor and Charlie’s friendliness that was credited with breaking the ice with the area farmers and dairymen who weren’t familiar with the Purina brand that Curley had used in Nebraska. They were hesitant in trying Purina for the first time on their ranches and dairy farms. Purina was yet to be introduced in California but Curley and Charlie would change that as they acquired a franchise for all of San Joaquin County.
They soon received their first shipment of Purina feed to be delivered in California shipped by railcar. To prove their product, they brought a calf into the store with the feeding and growth of the calf recorded on a chart on the wall of the feed store. Curley continually credited the community dairies including the Dutras, Borges and Cardozas operations for helping their business to flourish.
The first hired hand to join the feed store was Russ Myers who helped with the ever-expanding work load of the store along with Vera Morris working as their bookkeeper. Calves, baby chicks and rabbits were added to the inventory after Manteca Feed relocated down the street into the Peerless building at the corner of North and Main streets. In their early years in Manteca, feed shipments had to be picked up daily at the Stockton railyard by a fleet of Manteca Feed trucks emblazoned with Purina’s red and white checkerboard logos quickly recognized on Manteca streets and county roads.
Curley and Charlie wore red and white checkered shirts, hats and ties to work in their store. Purina built a mill in Stockton two years later so that feed no longer had to be shipped by rail.
The Sealeys had moved to Manteca just after the invasion of Pearl Harbor. Housing was difficult to find. They sended up settling in a place on Almond Avenue near Center Street, just north of West Yosemite Avenue. They shared the neighborhood with families that made up the fabric of the community: The Longs, the Swifts, the Hogrefes, the Luckens, the Irwins, the Hildebrands, the Hafleys and the Breshears all living in their new neighborhood.
It was a family neighborhood of new first-name friends where they enjoyed coffee together at each other’s homes, played horseshoes, shared telephone party-lines with many of the children enjoying life-long friendships throughout their school years and adulthood.
Center Street, where it crossed Almond, was known as the “dirt road” and ran behind the old Yosemite School and extended westward to the Southern Pacific Railroad tracks. Pete’s Market at the corner of Walnut and Yosemite avenues was the neighborhood grocery store where the kids could buy penny candies.
Manteca Feed would close its doors regularly on Friday afternoons in the Fall so that Curley and Edythe could be at the Manteca High School football games and watch their boys Don and Cooney play football.
The Sportsmen’s Parade was held annually on Yosemite Avenue with a Manteca Feed float entered in with the Sealey’s daughter Darlene and her little dog Tiny seated on the float. The dog was adorned in a dress and bonnet that Edythe had made out of Purina feed sacks.
A corporate Purina calf was named “Beautina” from Curley’s contest submission to be the official name on the Purina Calf logo that was on much of the Purina products. The entry beat out all other Purina franchisees.
Manteca Feed and Supply found a large customer base in Tracy at Deuel Vocational Institute where they would deliver large amounts of Dog Chow to feed the thoroughbred canines that were raised at the facility. The feed trucks had to be inspected by armed security before they could enter the facility.
Twenty-one years after opening the feed store Curley bought out his partner Charlie. They continued as friends for the rest of their lives. A new service station, planned for their location at North and Main streets, made necessary to relocate the store once again with Curley feeling a more rural location might serve their customers better in the future.
His wife Edythe acquired property from Frank Fiore of Center Plumbing on Lathrop Road that included a hay barn and a feed loading dock. Curley would employ a number of local workers including Gil Behlen, Harold Spars and Bob Scharmann and Nellie Richetta was their bookkeeper until 1970.
The high school Future Farmers Program benefitted from Manteca Feed being actively involved with Curley meeting with parents and students and mentoring them on how to care for various livestock that the students were raising. He would also vaccinate the animals for the students and his customers.
Curley attended the San Joaquin County Fair every year and would successfully “bid up” the students’ entries to enable them to get better prices and was rewarded for his efforts with the FFA Honorable Father Award at a Manteca FFA banquet for his dedication to the students.
One of the farm families he mentored was that of Dr. Richard D.M. Yee and his son Randy who later became a medical doctor in his own right. Young Dr. Yee was Curley’s physician until he passed away. Several MHS students were employed at the feed store including Dick Devine, John Bordenave, Steve and Mark Schrimsher, Jerry Tacosa and David Cabrera – his grandson.
Curley and Edythe retired in 1970 and leased the building to the Elliott Fleming family that operated the business for several decades. Curley Sealey and Charlie Bates both passed on in 1985 while Edythe still owns the property and buildings now leased to Old McGowan’s Feed that continues to serve Manteca with feed and pet supplies.
Curley Sealey and Charlie Bates are seen with their first load of farm feed on one of their flat bed delivery trucks in 1946.
Manteca Feed & Seed opened its doors in 1946. “Curley” Sealey and his friend Charlie Bates went into business together. Curley’s wife Edythe is 103 and living in Ripon’s Bethany Home.