Despite a recent sale, Erlandson’s Inc., in Kiester, is operating as usual, with no visible changes.
Mankato Implement purchased the John Deere dealership in both Kiester and Albert Lea, effective as of the first of the year.
“Not much is going to change,” says former owner Arlen O’Brien. “And that includes me.”
O’Brien says Mankato Implement is keeping the same name, all of the employees, and the same buildings. They are also keeping the owners on as managers.
O’Brien was in partnership with Kent and Scott Erlandson of Albert Lea. The owners of Mankato Implement are Ron and Steve Kibble.
“They (Mankato Implement) have purchased other dealerships,” Erlandson says. “In every case they keep the local name of the business.”
Mankato Implement owns dealerships in Minnesota Lake, New Ulm and Nicollet, as well as their Mankato location.
“We have been profitable for the past seven or eight years, and Mankato Implement wants us to stay that way, so they are keeping things in place as is,” O’Brien says. “They have no plans on closing any of their stores, including us.”
O’Brien says the reason he and the Erlandson’s decided to sell was because a suitable buyer was available.
“Our primary concern was to keep the stores open and keep all the staff employed,” O’Brien explains. “This sale keeps everything the way it has been – we don’t have to change the name on the sign or anything.”
There are 10 employees in Kiester, and 15 in Albert Lea.
The other reason for the sale was pressure from John Deere corporate headquarters.
“They have been telling us to either get bigger or get out,” O’Brien says.
With the sale, the group of dealerships under Mankato Implement ownership has bigger purchasing power and can handle more product. That gives them better deals from John Deere.
“One of the things our customers will see are more pieces of used equipment on our lot,” O’Brien says.
Other changes are ones the customers won’t notice. They have to do with central accounting and corporate business operations.
Erlandson’s started in Kiester as Simes Equipment in 1939. At the same time, Scott Erlandson’s great-grandfather started Erlandson’s in Albert Lea.
O’Brien came to Kiester in 1993 and became partners with Kent Erlandson in the Kiester store, which had also briefly been J & J Implement.
“I had another partner at the time, but eventually bought him out,” O’Brien says. “Then Scott came in as a partner – he is a fourth-generation owner.”
O’Brien started with Jensvold’s John Deere in Buffalo Center, Iowa, in 1980.
“The 1980s were rough for farming and implement dealerships,” O’Brien says. “I worked at four different John Deere stores before I came to Kiester and became partners with Kent Erlandson.”
Although John Deere corporate headquarters pushes for groups of dealerships under one ownership to share a corporate name, the Kibble’s feel the local name is more important to use.
“They think the name means something. They want the customers to be comfortable going to the same store – and people – they are used to dealing with,” O’Brien says. “We are happy to be able to still serve our farmers in the area with the same good service and products we always have.”
This business philosophy is one more reason O’Brien feels good about the sale.
“We are very similar in how we view the business,” he explains. “Although it hasn’t been a month yet, I still feel we are compatible.”
He has been busy telling his customers that it is business as usual.
“If we hadn’t announced it, they probably wouldn’t notice any change,” he says.