Woman looks to breathe life into small town general store 

By ERICA PENNINGTON
Features Editor

LEYDEN, Wis.— Blink once, and you’ve officially missed Leyden, a tiny town located on Highway 14 just west of Janesville.

Not much remains from its glory days during the railroad boom, but a major anchor of the community is now coming back to life.

“This building is from 1898 and was a general store,” said Janell McMahon. “When we purchased the building it was full of bats, raccoons and feral cats.”

McMahon, owner of J’s Feeds, an all-species animal feed and supply store based out of Orfordville, could see past the layers of peeling wallpaper, broken glass and water stains.

So could her husband, Jeb, a real estate developer and property flipper.

“A lot of memories of this building are around...this is a place where kids would come get Sundrop and push pop ice cream,” McMahon said.

Working to maintain the building’s character and even save its original floors, renovations have been underway to turn the eyesore into a beautiful second business location.

The store, located at 6421 W. Highway 14, will soon house all sorts of feeds for wild birds, chickens, horses, dogs and cats. There also will be convenience items like snacks available.

Large orders for abunak feeds and specialty products will be available at the Ordfordville J’s Feeds store.

“The highway is always streaming with traffic and I love that the building is located in the country,” McMahon said of the decision to purchase the once-blighted property.

A nurse by trade, McMahon fell into the feed shop business a year ago when one of the family’s investment properties was at risk of becoming vacant. Having no retail experience proved to be a challenge, but she has learned the ins and outs. It also has been nice for the family to stay in touch with its agricultural roots, McMahon said.

“Jeb and I were high school sweethearts and started out as dairy farmers before I became a nurse,” she said. “We still raise grass-fed beef at our home in Orfordville.”

Small-town values and a focus on complete customer service, which includes carrying purchases out to a customer’s cars, is what sets the business apart from competitors, McMahon said. She added that there are plans for the location to become a hub of sorts for education courses that can help local youth in 4-H and FFA with animal care and showing. And, with virtually the entire family involved as employees or a support system, McMahon believes the future looks very bright for J’s Feeds.

“We’re so much more than just a feed store, we’re family-owned and follow through with service,” McMahon said. “It’s all about quality and community.”

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