Jim Beus never received a pony when she was a kid. After her parents divorced when Beus was still a child, she graduated straight to a full-grown horse named Dee Dee.

RANCH HANDS: Kim Beus and staffers of Hartnagel Building Supply, a full-service lumber, hardware, and paint dealer in Port Angeles, Wash., that now also specializes in farm and ranch products. Photo: Doug Plummer "My dad bought the first horse to make my mom mad," Beus says. That was the start of growing up with a 4-H background and a lifetime of caring for animals.

Flash forward several decades, and Beus has come a long way. She owns six horses, and her children have grown up around 4-H. But the story doesn't stop there. Beus is also the marketing director of Hartnagel Building Supply, a full-service lumber, hardware, and paint dealer that has started selling farm and ranch products.

Hartnagel, located on the northern tip of the Olympic peninsula in Port Angeles, Wash., is just one of a select group of dealers that recognize farm and ranch products as an important niche in their territories, as well as a valid channel for extra cash as home-building sales remain in a slump.

"Right now, the barn business is holding more steady than anything," says Carl Bragg, sales manager of Douglas Lumber in Castle Rock, Colo. The dealer averages a complete framing package for a barn at least once a week, compared to custom home orders that arrive with much less frequency.

When Bragg moved to Douglas Lumber from a local competitor seven years ago, he brought with him a nice chunk of business, including a group of customers interested in framing packages for barns.

"The barn can cost as much as a house package, depending on the size," Bragg says, pointing to price tags as high as $80,000 or better.

Hartnagel entered the business after a feed store three blocks from the dealer closedin March. Customers of the store soon began wandering into Hartnagel asking for animal supplies. Doug Smith, the store manager, and Beus quickly realized it was a no-brainer for Hartnagel to plunge into the category.

"This kind of fell in our laps," says Beus, who also manages's the farm and ranch department.

Hartnagel has jumped into farm and ranch without hesitation. Although the category is in its infancy, Smith says, accounting for roughly 5% of total sales, he predicts it could grow to as much as 15% to 20% of total sales. Plans to expand its feed and fertilizer lines are in the works.