KODIAK, Alaska — The rain came down in sheets, but inside the barn the hay was stacked high and dry.
For a sixth winter, C&E Feeds in Bell's Flats will be supplying livestock and pet owners with feed and supplies, providing things otherwise inaccessible on Kodiak Island.
To owner Darlene Cain, another year of business means continuing a life that began when she was 15 years old and started working at the feed store that ultimately became C&E.
"Over the years, it just progressed," she said. "It's comfortable, a second home."
Cain grew up on Kodiak Island, learning to ride horses and once winning the rodeo queen title at the Kodiak Island Rodeo and State Fair. She has fond memories of coming to the feed store on her horse, tying up and just sitting on the loading dock and talking to whoever came by.
"You don't just buy feed, you come in and BS," she recalled.
Now, that same loading dock is a place of work, where she unloads by hand the containers that bring bags of feed from Oregon or Washington state. Piled high in a 40-year-old building, sacks of goat food lay next to bags intended for wild game birds and holistic, specially formulated dog food.
When Cain bought the business in 2005, it was at the nudging of a family friend. She took the hint because she wanted to provide a future for her children.
"The reason we got this place was because of the kids," she said.
At the time, there were Dakota, Taylor, Tyler and Shelby, cared for by Cain and her partner, Larry Evans. The pair's last names are the initials behind C&E.
When Tyler died suddenly, Cain considered giving up the store, but ultimately kept going.
"We continued on for the kids," she said. "This was a second home to them."
Wyatt joined the family, and in March this year, Layne was born.
As the family has grown, so has C&E, through new buildings and new products.
"Throughout the years, I've been listening to customers and what they want brought in," she said.
Her most unusual clients include Kodiak Island's only ostrich and a pair of llamas, but the bulk of the store's business comes from horses and poultry.
"Horses have pretty much stayed the same (since I started); the poultry definitely has gone up," she said.
Regardless of what else changes in the feed business, Cain said she wants to keep C&E close.
"We'd definitely like to keep it in the family," she said. "As long as a feed store is needed, it will be here."
Information from: Kodiak Daily Mirror, http://www.kodiakdailymirror.com