L.J. Hand celebrates 50 years

The owner and several employees are gathered around some of the prizes the L.J. Hand Farm Center Inc., Route161, Glen, will be giving away at its 50th anniversary open house on Saturday, April 22. Shown, from left, are Cortney Lenz, Terry Dygert Jr., owner Sandra Borden, Mudji Dillenbeck, Restel Matteson, John Sopczak and Laura Sopczak. (Photo submitted)

GLEN — When the L.J. Hand Farm Center Inc. on Route 161 conducts its 50th anniversary open house from

7 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, it will celebrate not only a business, but also the man who built it from scratch.

“This business is my uncle, his dream, his baby, his life,” said Sandra Borden, owner and manager of the business an enterprising Lynwood J. Hand started and developed.

“He started off really small in Fultonville,” with a family farm that eventually grew into a parts and supply center for area farmers, she said.

“My uncle crammed a lot of inventory into the showroon,” Borden said. “If you need a part, we pretty much have it.”

Never married, Hand was available virtually 24/7 to assist customers, especially those with emergency needs, she said. And having been a tractor mechanic himself, he was able to provide advice as well as parts.

The store’s showroom now is expanding into its west warehouse to make the area more spacious for customers, said Borden, who worked with her uncle for 34 years before his passing in 2015.

Borden said the business has remained strong despite the decline of agribusiness over the past 10 years with some farms unable to remain economically viable and children and grandchildren of farmers unwilling to take over farms.

“To be a farmer is not an easy job,” she said. “You’ve got to love it” to be involved in it.

While family farms have decreased, more people have become backyard farmers, raising not only fruits and vegetables, but poultry and sheep.

“It’s more like a hobby for them,” she said. “People are interested in having their own eggs. Everyone wants organic.”

The store recently held a chicken-raising seminar called Tour D’Cluck and plans more farm-related programs. A coffee shop also is being planned.

Borden said she strives “to operate the business with the same honesty, integrity and attention to fair pricing as [her uncle did].” A memorial garden outside the store commemorates Hand’s legacy.

At the 50th celebration, Bug Country Radio will be on site with its Giant Inflatable Cash Cube giving some lucky attendees a chance to win cash. The store will offer a 10 percent discount on purchases storewide (with some exclusions).

Special pricing and sale items will be available. The store will raffle such items as a stainless steel gas grill, a pedal car and a minibike. A free appreciation lunch will be offered.

Kleigh Kelley, Borden’s daughter and vice president of the business, said the Hand family roots date back to the early 1700s with Marcus Hand, the village’s first permanent settler. Lynwood J. Hand was born in 1932 — the son of James and Evelyne Hand.

In his early life, the family ran a dairy farm. Over the years, he and his brother, Thursdon, decided to switch to poultry, primarily raising turkeys, and the farm became known as Hand’s Turkey Haven. From 1948 to 1963, they raised and sold turkeys at a storefront located on the Hand Homestead.

In 1963, Lynwood Hand began working for Harold Moore in Fultonville as a mechanic for farm tractors. By 1967, Hand and Harold Moore were partners and had been approached to become a Temco dealer. Seeing the need for a tractor and machinery supply store in the area, they expanded its business, but didn’t have enough room. Parts sat on the floor, and business was slow.

In 1969, Lynwood bought out Harold Moore’s share of the business and purchased the Glen Feed Store in the village. He changed the name to L.J. Hand Farm & Garden Center and officially opened under that name in February 1970. Business started booming when local farmers discovered they could buy parts and supplies at discount prices. Expanding again, Hand added a mobile store unit which serviced Fulton, Montgomery, Schoharie, Herkimer, Otsego and Saratoga counties.

In 1984, Hand further expanded, this time moving his business to the family farm, also located in the village, where the business is currently located. He built a store with 12,000 square feet of space with an ever-expanding and extensive inventory.

The first open house took place in April of 1984. Sales were booming and by that time Lynwood had added another mobile store unit that carried goods to more than 700 farms each month.

Over the course of his years in business, Hand received numerous sales awards. He received the top sales award from Temco parts for so many consecutive years they stopped giving him individual plaques for each year instead they made one big plaque and just sent metal plates with the year on it.

The 50th anniversary open house at L.J. Hand Farm Center on Route 161 will be Saturday from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m.

By Chad Fleck

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