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Walpole's R.N. Johnson to close after 84 years

Union Leader Correspondent

February 28. 2013 9:08PM
R.N. Johnson's collection of John Deere gifts and memorabilia will be among the items sold at auction in April. The store, which lost its John Deere dealership in January, plans to close March 28. (File photo by MEGHAN PIERCE/Union Leader Correspondent)

WALPOLE - After 84 years in business, farm equipment dealership and service shop, R.N. Johnson Inc. announced Wednesday it is closing its doors for good.

Up until this year, the company had touted itself as one of the oldest John Deere dealerships in the world, but that distinction ended in January when John Deere ended its 84-year-old relationship with R.N. Johnson.

Though John Deere sales represented 50 percent of the company's sales, owner Alan Johnson said at the time a new farm equipment line would be brought in to replace John Deere.

Thursday he said company debt prevented the business from securing a loan to fund the remodeling of the building needed to accommodate a new product line.

"John Deere is a symptom of a bigger problem," Johnson said. "The farm equipment business has been in a terrible recession for the last five years."

Over the past two years, Johnson said he has mortgaged his home, liquidated his retirement savings and cashed in his life insurance policy, all in an effort to keep the business afloat.

He said he made the decision to close now while he still has a chance to cover the business' debts by selling the property and all of the equipment, including John Deere memorabilia that dates back almost 100 years, most of which has been on display in the business' John Deere Museum.

"I finally came to the conclusion if I didn't make the decision now I would not have enough money to pay all of our debts," Johnson said. "My goal right now is to cover all the debt of the business."

The loss of the John Deere dealership caused him to lay off six employees, the first lay off in the company's history.

"Losing John Deere hurt, but having to lay six people off without notice the next day was devastating," Johnson said.

The remaining 13 employees were given a months' notice on Monday, he said. The last business day will be March 28.

Until closing, the store will offer an inventory clearance sale. A liquidation auction is planned for April 20, at 9 a.m.

The John Deere Museum collection includes memorabilia, parts libraries, tech manuals, operator manuals and special tools, antique John Deere signs, posters, literature, sales manuals, price books and many other collectibles. Other items up for auction include equipment, tools, vehicles, hoists, lifts and compressors.

Alan Johnson is the third generation in his family to run the business, which was started by his grandfather, Ralph Nathan "Jack" Johnson, in 1929.

Initially, Johnson's motivation in becoming a John Deere dealer was to supply his own growing potato farm in Walpole with equipment, parts and service. He also sold to neighbors on the side.

Laying off employees and closing the business is devastating, Johnson said, but said he is taking it one day at a time and trusting in God.

Roger Adams of Westmoreland, who has been farming in the area since he was 12, said he has done business with Johnson's for the past 50 to 60 years.

"They've always been right there for you," he said. "Everybody's sad to see them go. . They've done a good job for us. It's going to be hard for parts and stuff. There are other dealers and good dealers too, but they are further away."

He said this is not the first time John Deere has taken a dealership away because a location did not have a large showroom or high volume of sales.

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