At the March Belmont Village Council meeting, members focused on ways to improve the business climate in the community in a free ranging discussion that included needed infrastructure updates to ways to "draw in new business since St. Clairsville is the closest place to find a variety of shops and restaurants."

Well, one Belmont-based business is ahead of the curve. Belmont Mills will soon open a new retail storeroom across the street from its signature feed mill on Jefferson Street.

In fact, company employees were busy early last week moving stock from the current store location in the building that once housed a cigar factory and later Cherry Tree Toys to the new salesroom next door.

For the present time, customers should go to the old location for service.

Under construction for the past year, the steel-framed metal building will include a salesroom consisting of about 4,000 square feet, along with an even larger storage area to the rear for bulk products according to Scott Roth, sales and marketing manager, for the firm.

The new building is the first new structure in the village in recent years. Jefferis Construction of Barnesville erected the building for the company.

"The store will be a mix between a farm supply and hardware store," Roth noted this spring. It will in fact be an expansion of the firm’s small salesroom on the ground level of the former home of Cherry Tree Toys. At this location for the past seven years, Belmont Mills sells farm supplies as well as shoes and boots.

In recent years, the company has expanded beyond its original farm-focused business model to include a trucking company adding stone aggregates to the line about three years ago as the oil and gas business in Belmont County quickly evolved.

Roth laments the loss of the railroad that once passed by the mill. The company hauls stone to their yards from a railroad siding in Martins Ferry.

And while the company has supplied farmers with seed for decades, they are also now providing full-service to reclaim, and restore ground cover for fracking pad areas once drilling activity is over.

In addition to the new, expanded retail store, Belmont Mills offers the following products:

• Aggregates, including limestone, sand and gravel

• Athletic fields surfacing products including natural grass and infield products from Turface Athletics

• Culverts and drain pipe

• Feeds including cattle/dairy, equine, poultry, swine and wildlife products

• Fertilizers, bagged and bulk

• Geotextile fabric

• Grass seed including ryegrass, bluegrass, pasture mixes, home and athletic mixes as well as turf, native grassed, wetland and wild flour mixes.

• Hydraulic mulch

• Snow and ice control products

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The mill, dating to 1888, was initially a stock-owner operated flour mill with a capacity of 60 barrels of flour in a 24-hour period. In 1900, one of stockholders, John Ira Lewis, purchased the other members’ stock and renamed the mill Belmont Roller Mill.

Most of the flour was shipped to eastern markets on the B & O Railroad whose tracks were adjacent to the Mill.

Charles Lewis, son of John Ira, joined the firm in 1906. In 1932, flour production was discontinued in favor of farm feed.

According to the mill’s website, "the family tradition continued when Robert (Bob) Lewis joined the staff in 1970 followed by his brother, JI Lewis is 1971 (both sons of John I Lewis)."

The company became a warehouse distributor for Wayne Feed in 1972. Due to the demise of the railroad, a need for transporting product was filled with the addition of the trucking division in 1980.

Bob and JI purchased stock to become the owners of Belmont Mills in 1985, with JI running the feed and agricultural arm and Bob managing the trucking and brokerage business.

James Lewis, son of Bob Lewis, returned to Belmont Mills working full-time in the trucking division in 2005. The mill continued to grow with expansion into aggregate sales. James purchased JI’s stock to become the mill’s 5th generation of Lewis leadership in 2011.

As a multi-faceted company, Belmont Mills employs 35 and is understandably the largest employer in the Goshen Township village.