By Erna Adelson and Jackie McFarland
Have you ever wondered (or have you been around long enough to know) – who is Mary of Mary’s Tack & Feed? We were honored to have a chance to chat with Mike Mosley, owner of this well-established brand, to find out the answer to this and more.
A well-known destination for So Cal equestrians in need of the finest, most current gear for horse and rider as well as a very visible sponsor of horse shows and advertiser in multiple publications, Mary’s Tack & Feed is conveniently located next to Showpark (the Del Mar Horse Park). Founded in 1963, the store established a clientele before the show grounds existed.
A former representative for numerous tack suppliers, Mosley was able to gain access to Mary’s through a history of business with the original owner and founder, Mary Hammond, who had been running her tiny operation out of an old gas station since ’63. After Mosley took over in 1976, he introduced new merchandise, but retained the original name, superior inventory, and meticulous attention to customers. “I learned a lot from Mary about how to treat people and what to carry,” he says. “She had a really good eye for quality and already had a reputation and customer base, so why would I change a good thing?”
Mosley reveals that a place like Mary’s is the product of a lot of hard work and a little good luck. “There have always been quality horses and riders in San Diego,” says Mosley, “But the right equipment has helped keep them here.”
As business flourished, one thing Mosley did need to change was the size of the store. In 1983, twenty years after its humble beginning, Mary’s relocated from its 600-square-foot location to a site twenty times larger – a 12,000-square-foot location two-story building on Via de la Valle, where it stands today. The outpost store in San Juan Capistrano opened approximately ten years later to further accommodate customers in Orange County. While e-commerce sales have helped Mosley and his team serve customers in distant locations like the East Coast, Hawaii, and even Japan, the internet is actually only a small part of his business. “There is nothing in print advertising or on the internet that can replace the feeling of actually walking into the store.”
Mosley and the rest of the staff at Mary’s are incredibly dedicated to their customers and take pride in providing the latest designs in tack and equipment, hard to find items, and high quality options. For each niche in the equine industry, Mary’s employs a specialized buyer so that the inventory is always up to date. “There are constant challenges involved in staying on top of the market, like keeping the variety so the inventory is interesting and satisfies the customer, whether the item is for a horse, for training a horse, just for riding, or just for fun,” says Mosley.
“It is a monumental task for new employees to know as much as possible about the merchandise,” he adds. Thus, everyone on the floor regularly attends Mary’s University, a school within the tack store, so that they are able to answer any and every question about what is currently being offered. Mosley estimates that Mary’s stocks about three times as many products as a Home Depot, so a student of Mary’s University actually has quite a course load.
Though there are challenges to running a 12,000-square-foot tack store the size of Mary’s, Mosley says that the people are the reward. He explains that “I have not only been incredibly blessed by the people I work with, but since so many of the clients have been coming to Mary’s for so long, they feel like old friends.” Mosley intends to keep the formula for Mary’s simple as the brand continues to expand in the future. “I think people will always have horses and the best products for horses are still high-quality and created by craftsmen, so we will continue to carry those items.”
So the answer to the question – Who is Mary? – is not just Mary Hammond but also Mike Mosley. His innovation plus Mary’s tradition create an excellent retail environment for equestrians.