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Historical Web site becomes special gift for Mother’s Day

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The Rome Seed and Feed store has been gone for six years, but a lifetime of memories remain — and the preservation of those memories has led to a unique Mother’s Day present for Mary Louise Payne.

The Rome Seed and Feed was part of Rome’s history for more than 150 years, with some version of the store in existence from the mid-19th century until it closed and was sold at an auction in 2003.

For more than 50 years, the store was part of Payne’s life, and while the building no longer exists at the corner of North Second Avenue and West Third Street — that’s now the River City Bank location — the history of the business has been preserved on a Web site created by brothers Chad and Kevin Payne.

Kevin, the Floyd County tax commissioner, and Chad, a software engineer in suburban Atlanta, created the Web site www.romeseed.com to preserve the rich history of Rome Seed and Feed, which developed from a feed store for farmers to an all-encompassing lawn, garden, hardware and supply store.

“The store really evolved over time — we had to expand to different product lines to survive,” said Kevin Payne, who worked at the store in his youth and later helped manage the store after graduating from college. “It started as a supply and feed store for the agricultural community, and when my dad (Robert Payne) took over, he started his landscape architecture business in the store.

“It really developed over time into a nursery, lawn maintenance, landscape and supply store, all in one.”

The idea for a historical Web site as a Mother’s Day present came to Chad Payne several weeks ago, when he ran across a book at his father-in-law’s house.

“About two weeks ago, I was at my in-laws house for the weekend and packing up to come home,” Chad said. “I spotted a book on a nightstand, and it was called ‘Dear Store,’ chronicling the history of the old Rich’s store in Atlanta.

“I had been thinking of doing something about the Seed and Feed store for a while, and I had a two-hour drive home to mull over some ideas,” he added. “I thought of a Web site with photos and blogs and the history of the store, and I called Kevin and he was just as excited about the idea. We jumped on it the next day and have put a lot of work into it.”

Many of the photos of the Rome Seed and Feed were found by accident when Kevin Payne was packing up after the store was closed.

“I kind of got lucky — I found most of those pictures when closing up and cleaning out my grandfather’s old office,” Kevin said. “We have some family photos and a lot of professional pictures from when Second Avenue was widened. The idea was to create a site where people can add their photos because I’m sure a lot of people have some pictures from the past.

“Not a week goes by where I don’t hear from somebody ‘I sure do miss the Seed and Feed store,’” he added. “People seem to remember that store. It’s something special from a bygone era. Obviously, it’s close to our hearts because Chad and I both grew up there, and in the 1950s, when my mother was a little girl, she remembers many of the same things about growing up there.”

Rome Seed and Feed moved to its best-known location on Second Avenue by the bridge in 1942, after the city’s levee system was built. Spencer Diden, the maternal grandfather to the Payne brothers, bought the store along with Huge Keown in 1953.

Robert Payne, the boys’ father, came into the business in the 1960s and eventually became president. Kinney Fincher became part owner and manager in the 1970s. Kevin Payne became a manager in 1998.

But the history of the store will now hopefully live on with the creation of the Web site, and the Payne brothers hope it will be an interactive site where others will add their memories and stories about Rome Seed and Feed.

“We’ve got a blog area and we started a chronology of the store, and we have a lot of old photos,” Chad Payne said. “We want people to post their comments and memories about the store, and I’m hoping this will grow into more blogs and sites about Rome’s history.”

The goal is to preserve much of Rome Seed and Feed’s place in the city’s history before the older generation passes on.

“We’ve lost some key players, those who used to be employees, but there’s still a number of people around that worked there or were regular customers,” Kevin Payne said. “We want this site to be interactive and involve other people, because there are so many folks that remember the store.

“We found a lot of old pictures and articles on the Rome News-Tribune Web site, and those had a huge amount of information,” he added. “That was a great tool, and Chad’s computer expertise was ideal. The store was such a big part of my mom’s life, and I think this Web site will be special to her. I hope this will be a neat gift.”