Brooke Miller and Ray Hogan

Business changes hands, remains center of activities

The Old Feed Store in downtown Cobden

The Old Feed Store in Cobden looks the same from the outside, but on the inside, the apartment upstairs is getting a makeover.

The apartment isn’t being redone because it was outdated or needed repairs, but because there is a new owner. 

Brooke Miller recently bought The Old Feed Store from Ray and Rose Hogan, who had owned it since 2007.

Brooke is a recognizable figure in the community, being an active member of the Cobden Lions Club (as is Ray Hogan), a board member of the Union County Chamber of Commerce and co-owner of Steam Shovel Coffee.

Brooke and her two boys will live in the apartment upstairs while running the events downstairs that the people of Cobden and the surrounding area have come to love and look forward to.

Bally Basler owned The Old Feed Store for 45 years. Back then, it was called Basler Feed Store. 

Mike Basler, Bally’s son, and his wife Penny ran the store for about 11 years before they shut it down as a feed store, but kept the building occupied.

According to Ray, they got to the point where they were doing nothing with the building and it sat empty.

The former “hub” of Cobden lay empty and dormant. 

One day, Tim Basler, Mike’s son, approached Ray about purchasing the feed store.

At the time, Ray and Rose lived in Anna and had a house on the market that wasn’t selling.

The Hogans decided to tackle the project.

Ray said the building was in rough shape. The original building, which is about 115 years old, had one little 60 inch fuse panel and one toilet under the staircase. It also had one stove and a drinking fountain. Everything else in the store was storage.

“We walked through it and the historical part of it hooked me,” Ray said.

“Within the first few hours of being in here, I thought, boy you could really do some neat, community-based events in here with a whole lot of work.”

The Hogans figured they could make the repairs while they waited for their house to sell. They had purchased other ground that they planned to build on.

“About four to five months into this project, here comes a buyer for the house,” Ray said.

They decided to go upstairs and build an apartment to live in.

They hung sheetrock in 104-degree weather in an attempt to have a place to live. The apartment was completed in 2008.

“It took a lot of time, effort and energy,” Ray said.

At that point, the Hogans decided to take care of the rougher projects downstairs.

They didn’t have heating and cooling, but they began hosting some community-based events.

“I love music, I always have,” Ray said,

They began producing shows and having music events.

Ray said they started out locally, but then starting taking in acts that traveled nationally. They would take in routing shows, which is a show in between scheduled shows.

They would welcome bands going from Memphis to St. Louis or Nashville to Chicago, for example.

“Most musicians would rather play music than sit in a hotel room,” Ray said.

The main building holds about 65 people. The side barn, which was built right before World War II, holds about 125 people.

The Old Feed Store is the host of many events, including private events, reunions, receptions, weddings, proms, company dinners and more.

They also hold community events like Christmas in the Village and the farmer’s market.

“In the world where anyone owns anything, it’s always for sale,” Ray said.

Brooke happened to be in the Yellow Moon Cafe, also in Cobden, speaking to her friend Sandy.

“I was pouring my heart out to Sandy. I had looked at this property, there weren’t any houses that I was interested in, and I was gushing, like, what do I do,” Brooke said.

Sandy, who was a mutual friend between Brooke and the Hogans, gave Rose a call and they met at the cafe.

“She sat down and we talked. There were details to work out certainly, but I knew that was what I wanted to do,” Brooke said.

Brooke reminisced about going to the feed store in the 1970s with her grandfather to buy seed, fertilizer, a rake or anything else.

“I remember 15 years ago, driving by this building, it looked empty. There wasn’t a lot happening here,” Brooke said.

“The rebirth that it’s gone through under Ray and Rose has been fantastic. I’m so excited to be the one to continue to expand. My kids are so excited about living here and I am too.”

Brooke said her first goal is to get her apartment ready for her and her two young sons to move in. 

Second is to learn and understand the business.

“I have a huge learning curve when it comes to music,” Brooke said.

“(Ray) is continuing to coach and mentor and be involved in some capacity with the music.”

Ray and Rose Hogan’s son, Joe, who is a cook at The Old Feed Store, is staying on board. 

Brooke said she wants to continue The Old Feed Store as it is, hosting events and being an active member of the community, but she also wants to expand and hopes to host more weddings and corporate and organization dinners.

“This, as a feed store, was the hub of the town of Cobden. It has become that again under Ray and Rose,” Brooke said.

“Not only can you rent it for various types of events, but there is so many community events that they have here. It supports things important to the county.”

Expanding the business is a hope for Brooke, including possibly adding a coffee shop to the store in the future.

The official transition of the business from the Hogans to Brooke was effective on Jan. 1, 2017.

“It’s a pretty seamless move. No big changes. I’m excited to see where it will go and grow,” Ray said.

For Brooke, going on this adventure with her two boys makes it that much more exciting.

“They have plans. They are going to be my popcorn sweepers at events. They love the idea of getting to use the space when we aren’t having an event,” Brooke said.

For more information about The Old Feed Store, visit www.theoldfeedstore.com or their Facebook page. To learn how to book an event, call 618-614-2251.

The Gazette-Democrat

112 Lafayette St.
Anna, Illinois 62906
Office Number: (618) 833-2158
Email: news@annanews.com

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