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AMERICAN IMPLEMENT CONTINUES LEGACY

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Last Wednesday, American Implement opened it’s doors just east of Syracuse. It was a great day for the those in the agriculture business and the community to celebrate after receiving some much-needed moisture in the form of snow. “We are thankful for the community showing up and helping us celebrate,” said Roman Lane, Location Manager.

“Nothing Runs Like a Deere.” While some people may argue this phrase, John Deere has been in the Syracuse business community for over 100 years and shows no signs of slowing down! 

According to Skip Reed, owner of the John Deere dealership from 1975-2017, the franchise was made possible through efforts by A.J. Gould, in the teens or twenties and was located on the lot behind Superior Car Care, just north of Skyland Grain.

Gould was working for Scranton Lumber, who was also the International Harvester (IH) dealer and they decided to take on John Deere. Reed explained that IH became jealous and told them one of the dealerships had to go so Gould decided to leave the lumber company and start a separate John Deere business.

According to local resident, Jack Roberts, his classmate’s dad purchased the dealership from Gould in 1944. After connecting with Jim Stein, Roberts’ classmate, Stein confirmed his father, Ervin, purchased Gould Implement and operated it until 1949. He remembers A.J. being referred to as “Buck”.

“I attended school in Syracuse for five years and they were the most enjoyable,” said Stein, “In fact I was made an honorary graduate in the class of 1959 and my wife Jo and I have attended several reunions.”

Ervin was the manager of the John Deere store in Lakin before purchasing the one in Syracuse. It was named Stein Implement and also carried Gleaner/Baldwin and Mayrath augers. “Every dealer at that time carried a sideline,” said Stein. He recalls one of his friends, James Smith’s family, operating the IH business across the street from his father’s business. 

“I was at the dealership washing windows, sweeping floors, doing things owner’s sons should not have to do, when I needed to be at the swimming pool, spending time with friends or riding my motor scooter,” laughed Jim.

Stein explained how things operated in the 40’s which were during war times. There were shortages of machinery and many other items, and his dad would get equipment once a year and only 9-10 implements.

After the war ended, the veterans, as they began to come back, could apply for, and get “veteran preference”. This meant, the veterans would get on the top of the list before the farmer. Stein remembers the local farmers being very patient, and that there was a patriotic feeling throughout the community, but the farmers were also given rations of fuel and tires to continue their operations,

When the wheat drills would come in, all the farmers in line for drills came into town and helped unload the rail cars, which contained parts ready to put together. “The farmers all worked together unloading each other’s parts, it was definitely people helping people,” he said.

He recalls the repair shop being very busy because the theme was, “Fix it, rather that pitch it”, because parts were also in short supply. While they did receive parts, it may not be what they wanted and farmers repaired their tractors more than they bought new tractors, because there was a waiting list.

Ervin then sold the business back to A.J. Gould, and according to Skip, when A.J.’s son Zeno was old enough, he purchased the business in 1950. Skip’s dad “Bub” started working with Zeno in the parts department and Roberts and Charlie Lawhead were mechanics. Roberts recalls the work environment as fun, “Zeno was great to work for and was ornery like everyone else.” 

In 1975, Zeno decided to retire, so the business was sold to Bub, Skip and Arlan Huser and was renamed R & H Implement. One would think a new person would have to establish a market, maybe knock on some doors or make phone calls to make the sell. Skip explained, “The big deal was the coffee pot. You kept the coffee pot full and free, people would come in and that gave us the opportunity to visit with them.” 

They were the largest John Deere snowmobile dealer in the state of Kansas, getting 20 at a time, “But all of us were avid snowmobilers too!” Skip added.

Prices have changed drastically over the years as have implements. When Skip started, the “Queen of the prairie” tractor was a 4630, and full list price was $17,500 and combines were around $30,000.

Once Skip sent two of his employees to Dighton to repossess a combine. One of the employees called and said, “I’ve got some good news and bad news, the bad news is the guy met us with a shot gun and the good news is we talked to the sheriff and we can get the truck back!”  They did, however, come back without the combine.

Another memorable day was when Jack Roberts was driving his Gleaner combine west out of town without a header. When he approached the John Deere dealership, a tie rod broke on the wheel of the combine and it made a very quick right and ended up in the header of a John Deere combine.

“He was thrown out during the incident and landed under the header and it was holding Jack’s combine up, preventing it from crushing him!” The combine was silver in color, so you might say,  John Deere saved Roberts’ life.

Skip said, “There were some tough years and in 1987, we got in some financial difficulty and needed some equity. So many area farmers and businessmen got together and bought 49% of the stock which gave us the capital infusion to limp on through those tough years in the mid 1980’s, It was really dry!”   

He remembers John Deere’s interest rate at 14.45% and he sold equipment for 15 to 20. They later changed the rates to a variable 20% and “People still bought them, that was inflation back then!”

Arlan retired in 1987, and at that point Skip had 51%. It was in 2006 when John Deere wanted dealerships to merge. By chance, he rode to a John Deere meeting with one of his classmates, Ward Narin, who owned the John Deere dealership in Johnson, Golden Rule. On the way back Skip and Ward discussed their financials and came to the conclusion, the four other dealerships which John Deere wanted them to merge with, “Needed us worse that we needed them!”

“Forty nine percent of my company was owned by people who were getting up in age and they were going to need out and I was going to have to buy it,” said Skip. Ward said, “Why don’t I buy it and you buy that same amount in my company, running them separately for a few years, we’ll  “date” and if everything works, we’ll make it one company.” So that is what they did and after six months, they “The businesses married” so to speak. 

They changed the name to Golden Rule, since there was no H in R& H, and “It worked perfectly, internet was getting going, market was going up, dairies were on either side of the dealerships and we could service and sell to them, said Skip. In fact he speculated the dairies were probably one of the top John Deere customers in the nation.

“As the business continued to grow John Deere was making it increasingly difficult by messing with the discounts, because they could!” said Skip, “They told us in order to be a dealer of tomorrow, we had to sell 40 million per year,” he said, “And we were already doing that!”

Soon after the number was 100 million and Ward and Skip did not think they could do that. They needed new buildings to accommodate the growing implements and they looked at each other, both 65 years old, and decided, why fight it?

They knew their businesses, combined with American Implement, could equal the amount so, “We went to Chad and Duane, and it did not take much to make it happen, so as of December 1, 2017, Ward and I both retired.”  They leased the building on the west edge of town, up until now and then Skip sold the buildings to the dairies.

The building does hold some interesting history. Skip recalls A.J loaning Clay Gaylor money to build a roller-skating rink. It was later in the bank’s possession, so that is where A.J. started Gould Implement. When you entered the door, there was wood flooring in the parts and display area and fortunately the new owners have an appreciation of the history and have kept the flooring in tack.

Looking back, Reed recalls some of the best customers could also be the most challenging. Thinking about Ted Burnett he commented, “Oh my goodness, he had a new 8630, the biggest four-wheel drive tractor John Deere made, ordered when we bought Zeno out and it had not come in and it was Spring!” Skip laughed, “He was acquiring a taste for the flavor of my rear end, because he chewing it every day!”

“Larry Dikeman, one of my favorite people, he was rarely down, and he went through some pretty rough years with the droughts and I was trying to sell him something,” but Skip remembers feeling better after visiting with Larry even though he did not get to sell him anything.

Zeno was also a great mentor to Skip and although he hesitates to name names, because he had a lot of great customers, Rodger Westeman, Boz Hartshorn, and Richard Plunkett come to mind.

American Implement is now located approximately one mile east of Syracuse on Highway 50. The new facility is 21,700 square feet of which 14,500 square feet houses the service area and they currently have fourteen employees.

Construction of the new building was done by Matt Miller/Miller Construction, out of Goodland, and Lane felt they did a great job and were great to work with.

Free hot dogs and hamburgers were served to approximately 120 guests in the new service area. There was a large American flag hung between their two service trucks to greet the guests. In addition to store discounts, giveaways, and drawings for prizes.

Lane commented the new facility is working out very well. “Our first day at the new location was Monday, November 30 and we are getting better all the time.” He added, “We’ve seen an uptick in everything and it is nice for the service team to work inside on larger equipment, especially during the winter months.”

Lane is proud to be a part of a small community. He wanted to thank Jess and Laryce Schwieterman of JL Farms, for their help in moving to the new facility. “This included their employees, Treg Hatcher, Casey Hatcher and Kyle Dupree, and using their trailer. They helped a whole day. They did not have to do that!” 

He is also appreciative of local farmer Randy Levens who kept the lot mowed, during construction, for free. “These things are what makes a small community so great!”

In addition to service and parts, they offer a wide variety of John Deere products from high horsepower tractors to lawn and garden equipment, John Deere toys, John Deere clothing and more. They also offer bulk hardware, grills, generators, and something new to help their customers is Zimmatic irrigation parts.

“If you’re in the market for something and we don’t have on hand, give us a call and we’ll find it for you,” said Lane.

Building lasting relationships is American Implement’s priority. They were established in 1970 and are a family-owned dealership that has expanded into one of the largest John Deere dealers in the Midwest. With sixteen locations and 400 dedicated employees, American Implement is ready to support their customers in all their farming and ranching needs.

Even though they continue to grow, they want their customers to know some things will never change. They are commitmed to service and support for their customers and the communities. that they serve. They believe in the future of agriculture and plan to be a part of it.

They are open Monday-Friday 7-5 and Saturday 7-12. They hope you enjoy visiting American Implement and encourage their customers to contact them with any questions or comments.

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