Trampolines, dodge balls bounce local feed store
The blended scent of Tiger Balm and athletes in a sweat should generate a welcome substitute for the aroma of pulverized fish food just south of the train tracks on Seventh Street.
The acrid odor of meat and bone meal — able to permeate locked car doors in less than two minutes — will soon be replaced by the spicy bouquet of humans recreating.
Vive la difference.
For neighbors of the landmark agricultural silo, change comes on the heels of a historic business transaction between two families who invested in the property at 715 S. Seventh St. more than 30 years ago.
The silo — which survived a massive industrial fire and numerous whacks from a wrecking ball in 1974 — will no longer be used by Integral Fish Foods to mix and package fare for finned fauna.
Instead, the aging concrete spire could eventually anchor an 85-foot-high wall for recreational climbers, if all goes according to plan.
For starters, Silo Adventure Center plans to fill the Mesa Feed Mart warehouse with a 4,400-square-foot open jump court, a dodge ball court on trampolines, a basketball dunk court, and a foam pit with three waterfall trampolines, said Joe White, who purchased the property last week.
The feed mart’s retail space will become a pilates and fitness studio, managed by White’s wife, to be known as Better Bodies at the Silo.
The first phase of the project should be completed by May. A second phase slated for fall 2014 will include a Ninja Warrior-style obstacle course. By 2015, work on the climbing wall should be well underway, White said.
The transformation began when White — whose father, Dean, purchased the property to start Mesa Feed Mart in the 1960s — switched careers from globe-trotting mining engineer to hometown entrepreneur.
Dean White eventually partnered in the business with Richard Pierle. Both men retired and the feed business went to Pierle’s wife, Judy, who operates it to this day.
Joe White said he bought the Seventh Street property from Judy Pierle last week.
White practically grew up there, the place where his father gave him his first job at age 15.
“I’ve always loved being at the Mesa Feed facility,” White said. “From the time I was a little kid visiting my dad, we had piles of feed stacked up in the warehouse. One of the things I enjoyed was climbing to the top of the pallets stacked three-tons high and jumping from one to the next.”
“Then as I got older, I started climbing the silo and that was a ton of fun too,” he said.
These childhood activities foreshadowed big things to come.
ENGINEER BLAZES NEW TRAIL
White’s career path, which started in 2003 with his graduation from Colorado School of Mines, wound its way around the world before it brought him home again.
His first job as a mine engineer was at a coal mine in New Mexico. Next came two years on the northern coast of Australia at a manganese mine. Then he moved to Johannesburg, South Africa, to work at the corporate headquarters for the manganese operation.
Finally, White returned to the United States, where he engineered copper mine operations near Globe, Ariz.
A severance package he received after the Globe mine closed got him thinking about other pursuits.
“In South Africa, I really got into rock climbing. There was a climbing gym not far from our house. That’s something my family just absolutely loves to do. Combine that with the trampoline parks I got exposed to in Tucson” and the kernel of a business venture started to sprout.
“I decided, if I was going to do something besides mining, this is what I wanted to do,” he said.
The engineering background gives White another advantage in his new business.
“Being a mine engineer is all about safety,” he said.
Making sure the new recreation center is as safe as possible for participants is only one of the ways White plans to mitigate his exposure to losses in the event someone is injured.
Everyone who wants to use the center will get some training on the tramps and obstacle courses, he said.
Also, trampoline park participants will be required to sign a liability waiver. All those younger than age 18 will be required to have a signed waiver from a parent or legal guardian.
White said he plans to start hiring and training employees to work at the recreation center starting spring of 2014.
MESA FEED MART MOVING
“It’s a new beginning over on Ninth Street,” said Judy Pierle, owner of Mesa Feed Mart.
The demise of Greenfield’s Seed in November 2012 allowed Pierle’s feed store to begin offering pasture and garden seed on a limited basis.
Then, when White offered to buy the Seventh Street property for Silo Adventure Center, Pierle recognized an opportunity to expand her business at a more favorable location.
On Thursday, backyard farmers and other Feed Mart patrons will buy their supplies at the new location, 520 S. Ninth St.
“We’re moving across the tracks,” Pierle said.
The new location brings opportunity to reach more people and grow the brood of customers Pierle thinks of as family.
“We’re going to be more consolidated,” she said. “We’ll be able to offer a little bit more than we offer here.”
In addition to pasture and grass seed, garden seed will be sold — now, in bulk. The Ninth Street location has equipment that will allow her to bag seed at the site.
“It’s going to be more economical for our customers,” she said.
New lines of organic feed for chickens, goats and other livestock will also be sold in response to customer demand.
“We’re going to just kind of improve on what we have,” Pierle said.