R.N. Johnson of Walpole to close next month

Michael Moore / Staff Photographer

R.N. Johnson in Walpole is shown last Wednesday. The business is closing this month after eight decades, majority owner Alan W. Johnson said, more than a month after its contract with John Deere was terminated.

WALPOLE — Unable to recover from losing its John Deere contract last month, R.N. Johnson Inc. is closing its doors for good.

Alan W. Johnson, majority owner of R.N. Johnson, announced on Wednesday the farm equipment business will close on March 28. His decision comes about a month and a half after John Deere canceled its dealer agreement with the business after 84 years.

Johnson said he and his staff exhausted every possible means to secure new tractor lines, and get financing to allow R.N. Johnson to continue operating.

“We did end up finding three tractor lines to replace John Deere, but because of the impact the recession had on our financial condition, we weren’t about to get the financing we needed,” he said.

John Deere equipment made up about 50 percent of R.N. Johnson’s sales, he said.

While the parts and service aspects of the business have remained brisk over the past month and a half, the revenue wasn’t enough to cover overhead, Johnson said.

The decision to close was made now so that employees would have time to find new jobs, he said. He also wants to ensure that when the business closes, there will be sufficient assets to pay off all creditors, and any loyal and patient suppliers, he said.

Johnson said last month that the requirements for being a John Deere dealer became more expensive, and R.N. Johnson just couldn’t afford it anymore.

“It’s something they’ve been doing nationwide. Its corporate philosophy is to eliminate all the single-location small dealers. It wants large multiple-location dealers selling $20 million a year in John Deere products,” he said in January.

John Deere spokesman Barry E. Nelson said at the time that the company doesn’t make public comments about the business arrangements or contract details of its independent dealers.

Following John Deere terminating its dealer agreement with R.N. Johnson on Jan. 7, Johnson had to lay off six employees. Once the store closes in March, he will have to let another eight employees go, Johnson said.

He will probably keep about six people, including himself, with the business for at least another month to oversee the final accounting, selling of real estate and the other details involved in closing a company, he said.

Roger S. Adams of Westmoreland, 78, who has been farming in the region since he was 12 years old, said the news was “devastating.”

“It’s really bad. I don’t know what we’re going to do,” he said. “We’re going to have to get on the Internet or something if we want to get parts. Once in a while you get a serious breakdown on one of the tractors and they’ve been right there for us.”

Selectman Chas G. Street, who said he knows the Johnson family personally, wondered whether John Deere’s business decisions are good for its customers.

“They’ve got these large, centralized dealerships now,” he said. “I’m sure it makes sense, money-wise, but service-wise, I’m not sure it does. It’s very unfortunate.”

Adams agreed.

“That’s the way it’s been for farmers, and it’s getting worse and worse every year,” he said. “We’re at the bottom of the totem pole now. One of these days, (farmers) won’t be able to get their stuff.”

Adams said he’ll now have to make the 60-plus mile trip to Lunenburg, Mass., to get parts and have his tractors serviced.

Johnson said in a news release everything remaining in the store after March 28 will be sold at a liquidation auction on April 20. Items from the business’ John Deere Museum, and John Deere memorabilia such as signs, parts books and manuals will also be up for bid at the auction, he said.

The business’ property will also be put up for sale.

Sentinel staff writer Kyle Jarvis contributed to this report.

Meghan Foley can be reached at 352-1234 extension 1436 or mfoley@keenesentinel.com. Follow her on Twitter @MFoleyKS.