Big changes for John Deere dealers
All that has changed is the name. Nothing else. At least for now.
But, that is a big change that came about from the recent sale of Detke-Morbac, the John Deere dealership in Blue Earth.
At least one other big, major change a move to a brand new location in Blue Earth is still to come.
On April 23, Detke-Morbac owner Gene ‘Skip’ Schimek sold the business to Steve Kibble, owner of Mankato Implement, another John Deere dealership.
And, that sale was not the only big deal happening in the area as far as John Deere businesses and the Kibble family are concerned.
Twelve southern Minnesota John Deere dealerships merged into one large operation on May 1, under the corporate name Kibble Equipment.
Here is how that came about.
With the purchase of the Blue Earth facility, Mankato Implement now owned seven dealerships located in Mankato, Minnesota Lake, Kiester, New Ulm, Nicollet, Albert Lea as well as Blue Earth.
“At the same time that I was buying the operation in Blue Earth, my cousin, Butch Kibble, was buying the John Deere business in Sleepy Eye,” Steve Kibble explains.
Butch Kibble owned the dealership in Montevideo, as well as those in Redwood Falls, Bird Island and Wabasso.
The two Kibble cousins both had the same partner in their operations Ace Brandt of Fargo, N.D.
Now the three men are partners in the new company known as Kibble Equipment.
“The store in Blue Earth is named simply Kibble Equipment-Blue Earth,” Steve Kibble says. “We will be putting up a new sign on the building as soon as we can.”
That sign, however, might have to be movable and not be permanent.
That is because the plan is to build a new facility complete with a much larger building and equipment display lot in the new Blue Earth Industrial Park located north of I-90.
“I have signed an agreement with the city for three lots in the new industrial park,” Kibble confirmed. “We will start on the building once all the details are worked out (by the city) and the site is ready. But, we don’t plan to actually be able to move there for two years.”
Kibble stressed that the sale of the local John Deere business does not mean a lot of changes coming.
“We are making this as seamless as possible,” he says. “Other than a new name, customers will see very little difference.”
That means all the employees will stay the same including Schimek himself.
“Skip is going to stay here as the store manager,” Kibble says. “We wouldn’t be doing this any other way.”
The two men have known each other for years.
Schimek started working at Detke-Morbac in 1974. That is the same year that Kibble’s father bought Mankato Implement.
Schimek eventually became the owner of Detke-Morbac in the late 1980s a business which had started in 1952.
Kibble started working for his father, Art, at Mankato Implement in 1991, right after getting out of college.
Then in 2000, he took over as manager/owner of the company.
“It was a little strange,” he says. “My father and I just switched jobs one day. He went from being the manager to being a salesman, and I went from salesman to manager.”
The same thing was happening in Montevideo.
Steve Kibble’s uncle (his father’s brother) was also selling his John Deere dealership to his son Steve Kibble’s cousin, Butch.
“Our fathers tried to get this deal done (merge the two companies into one) and couldn’t do it,” Steve Kibble says. “Now we have managed it, but it took a few years.”
Kibble says the purchase of the Sleepy Eye store was the key.
“John Deere wanted us to buy that dealership before they would let us complete this merger,” Kibble explains. “It is right between our two operations and they wanted it to be part of the group.”
It is John Deere Corporation itself that is pushing for the combination of many smaller operations into fewer, but larger, ownership groups.
Blue Earth and Sleepy Eye were two of only four single-owner John Deere operations left in Minnesota. With their purchase and merger into the new Kibble Equipment, there now are only two left Preston and Watkins.
“In the entire Midwest there are probably no more than 10 independent John Deere dealerships left,” Schimek says.
Kibble agrees with that statement.
“I remember in the 1970s there were 42 John Deere dealerships within about a 60 mile radius of Mankato,” he says. “But, there were a lot more farmers then, also.”
Both Schimek and Kibble say John Deere wanted all the dealerships to sell to each other.
“They told us we were all going to be either a buyer or a seller, and we better decide which it was,” Kibble says. “They had 2,300 dealerships with 1,600 owners back then. Now it is still 2,200 locations but only 700 owners.”
With 12 locations, Kibble admits the size and scope of the new company is pretty large.
“But, our goal is the same as before, taking care of our customers and our employees,” he says. “We will let our managers and employees run the business and things will be just like they have been in the past.”
Only with a new name on the building.