Much has changed since those early days when customers could pay later, or pay in favors or baked goods— when helping our neighbors was just as important as making a profit. But one thing hasn’t, and that’s treating others well. Mike Lemos is “old school” when it comes to being responsible and respectful. Raised on a ranch in South County with seven brothers and sisters, he learned selflessness and the value of hard work early in life from his parents, Tony and Isobel. His folks were among the many first-generation Portuguese families who settled the Central Coast. Tony was born in Portugal and came here to raise livestock. Isobel was the “hardest working woman I’ve ever known,” said Mike.
Mike and his wife, Debi, have three daughters. There’s Lisa, who works as a banker in San Luis Obispo; Michelle, Lemos’s operations manager, and her husband James, Lemos’s distribution manager; and Melissa, who works as a photographer’s assistant and is designing her own line of shoes. Mike says his family has been very important to the success of his company. And then, of course, there’s Jack, the family dog—an Aussie Shepherd they adopted 10 years ago. Jack is the company mascot. Tullulah is a poodle-cross who joined the family a little later.
Another example of Mike’s business savvy is evident in the now-famous company slogan, which he admits just came to him in the shower one day. “If your pets could talk, they’d say Lemos!” Dogs, cats, birds, even buffaloes. You see …
Twenty years ago, Mike bought a half dozen buffalo from the Hearst Ranch. Today, they are all gone but one. Over the years, those buffalo attracted lots of visitors to the Lemos warehouse property on Los Berros Road in Arroyo Grande. Couples have been married there (with proud buffalo in the background), vacationing families have stopped there to have photos taken with them, even school busses full of 4th graders on a field trip have shown up there.
“Pretty simple,” Mike replied, naming three elements he believes to be critical. 1. Prices. The company buys directly from manufacturers, so prices are kept low, competitive with other stores – online or brick & mortar. 2. Hiring practices. The company hires for a friendly, helpful attitude, integrity, and a passion for pets and their people. 3. Training practices. Everyone receives tons of training in customer service and they are encouraged to learn as much as they can about the products they sell.
While the inventory at Lemos Feed & Pet Supply is extensive and exhaustive, Mike doesn’t sell the actual animals themselves. He’s a strong advocate for our county’s shelters and hopes people will consider adoption first. If you buy a pet, Mike suggests finding a reputable breeder so that you know the owners and can trust the parentage.