Bug & Weed Mart thrives with family - SanTan Sun News SanTan Sun News

Bug & Weed Mart thrives with family

June 25th, 2022 SanTan Sun News
Bug & Weed Mart thrives with family

By Alex Gallagher
Staff Writer

Like most things, it started with a need, Owner Jim LaBrie likes to tell people about how he founded Bug & Weed Mart over 40 years ago.

LaBrie had been teaching at Alhambra High School and felt bugged by critters that snuck into his home.

However, since he was on a teacher’s salary, he couldn’t afford an exterminator. So he decided to do the best he could by going to hardware stores and purchasing the best bug juice he could find.

Unfortunately, the sprays didn’t do the trick. So, he kept searching until he stumbled into a small shop in Mesa that had what he needed.

LaBrie was able to purchase the same chemicals used by professional exterminators and his creepy-crawly visitors took a hike.

He became so impressed by the concept that he kept a close eye on it and eventually purchased the business he once patronized, giving birth to Bug & Weed Mart.

Before Jim knew it, the business began to swarm its way from its humble beginnings in Mesa to four more locations in the valley: Gilbert, Scottsdale, Tempe and Phoenix.

“We started as one store in Mesa and our customers who drove from other areas told my dad ‘hey, we’d love to be able to come to see you’ or ‘is there a chance you could open (another) store’ and the business finally justified enough growth,” said Jim’s son Joe, who joined the business in 2010 and currently operates the Scottsdale location in addition to acting as the companies director of operations.

One by one, the stores kept opening and the timing became perfect for Jim to turn the business over to his daughter Cara and son Joe.
Although he admits he did put his kids through the wringer in the years leading up to their transition.

“Terrible, I had to fire them four times,” Jim said with a laugh after being asked what it was like to work with his children.  “But it worked out pretty well because it is a business relationship and they’ve learned enough over the years about how to do things and they’re quite mature.”

However, Joe and Cara have proven their worth by managing their way through shortages of certain products and dealing with rising costs.

“There were some spikes that were crazy recently. And that was followed by the unavailability,” Joe said. “I’m very proud to say we’ve worked diligently to maintain stock on all of our items even though it’s been a little bit of a hop, skip and a jump to where I will have to stuff products in my trunk and lug them from one store to another some days.”

Joe believes that the tide is beginning to settle in terms of having items on backorder.

“It looks like things are finally starting to mellow a bit and I’m very happy to say we have not been out of stock for anything our customers have needed,” Joe said.

This has come at the most opportune time — Joe has just begun stacking his shelves in preparation of the re-emergence of scorpions and mosquito season.

“Scorpions have kind of been the long-standing given here,” Joe said. “However, in the last couple of years, we’ve seen a lot more mosquito activity and the West Nile virus is here which is a pretty real issue.”

Those are not the only critters that Joe has seen jump into the fold in recent years either.

“We’ve also seen a roof rat infestation that used to be focused on just a couple of neighborhoods, and many more places now than it used to be,” he said.

However, Joe feels confident in his products and authentic approach to customer service but in terms of the future expansion of the business, he plans to continue to do whatever his dad wants.

Info: bugweedmart.com

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