By Karen Brainard
Three-year-old Dawson Schuler of Ramona became Tractor Supply Company's first customer, with assistance from his great-aunt, Carole Wylie, who had some pull as she was the architect who designed the store's building at Main and Hunter streets.
Wylie, also of Ramona and a former chair of the Ramona Design Review Board, knew how much Dawson loves tractors and was aware that Tractor Supply Company carries toys.
"I promised him on his third birthday back in April that I would take him to the Tractor Supply store when it opened so he could pick out his own birthday present," Wylie said.
It appeared Dawson may have forgotten that promise, but it didn't take him long to be enticed by a display of miniature tractors and other farm equipment, many sporting the John Deere name.
Dawson has his own kid-size green John Deere tractor that he rides around on to help his dad, Bill, do chores. As Dawson scanned the rows of colorful vehicles, he was especially delighted when he found a blue and white piece of equipment. When his mom, Meredith, asked what it was, he knew — "a forklift," said the 3-year-old.
In a display of miniature animals — ones found on a farm, in a zoo and during pre-historic times — Dawson found a horse that looked like "Treasure," one of his family's three horses. He ended up, however, settling on a giraffe.
Dawson also chose a hauler semi with tractors on its bed, a child-size shovel, and a small sparkly horse for his baby sister.
With prompting from Wylie, Dawson approached Robert Menard, the store manager, and said, "Excuse me Mr. Robert, can I pay for these now?"
As Menard rang up the purchases, he said, "It's all really well made."
Wylie said she is pleased with how the store looks. She collaborated with Ramona developer Steve Powell, the project manager. The two worked with Haymes Snedeker of Hix Snedeker Companies which develops stores for Tennessee-based Tractor Supply Co.
"Working with Haymes Snedeker has been wonderful," said Wylie. "He's like that typical Southern gentleman. So willing to work with the community."
She noted that in developing the building and property, Snedeker agreed to use the Ramona Village Center Plan of form-based codes, even though it had not been adopted yet.
"They were willing to do the first in town and kind of set the stage. I feel fortunate to be the one to be able to do that," she said.
Because the codes require that open parking areas for a commercial building be masked from public frontage viewing, the parking lot was placed so access would be from Hunter Street and a street scene was designed to break up the building's wall along Main Street.
"The entire Main Street facade is like nothing they've done throughout the country," said Wylie.
She is working on another Tractor Supply Company store that will be built in Lakeside on Old Highway 80.
The 19,097-square-foot Ramona store is Tractor Supply's 32nd store in California.
"Ramona is a great location for Tractor Supply Company because the people here have a natural connection to the 'Out Here' lifestyle that our products support," said Menard.
The new store will celebrate a grand opening on Saturday, Aug. 23, with an antique tractor show, steam engines, zebra display, mounted police, gypsy horses with a violinist, a dog rescue with pet adoption and barbecue. Representatives from local Future Farmers of America and 4-H chapters and Miss Ramona, Miss Lakeside and Miss Julian will make appearances.
In addition to the grand opening, at 9 a.m. Friday, Aug. 22, a ribbon cutting ceremony will be held with the Ramona Chamber of Commerce, and from Aug. 21 to 24 shoppers can enter to win prizes.