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January 09. 2013 11:56PM

John Deere pulls dealership from Walpole company after 84 years


R.N. Johnson mechanic Gary Kinney works on a John Deere machine in the shop Wednesday afternoon. (MEGHAN PIERCE/Union Leader Correspondent)

WALPOLE - The R.N. Johnson Inc. website proclaims it's one of the four oldest John Deere dealers in the world.

That distinction ended on Monday when representatives from John Deere arrived at the Walpole business and ended their 84-year-old relationship.

Because the sale of the machines represents half of R.N. Johnson's revenue, the company laid off six of its 20 employees, owner Alan Johnson said.

"Those were families that relied on us not only for their income but for their health care," Johnson said. "First layoff in our 84-year history. That's harder on me than losing John Deere."

John Deere employees removed its machines off the property on Tuesday and Wednesday.

"That field was full of John Deere equipment," said Johnson, motioning toward a field with one John Deere machine sitting in it Wednesday afternoon.

The employees who lost their jobs were in clerical and sales positions, Johnson said. None of the seven mechanics in the shop lost their jobs. The focus of R.N. Johnson's right now is to continue to service the tractors it has sold.

"We are going to stay in business. We are going to continue to service the many people who bought John Deere products over the years," Johnson said.

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.

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

People from 100 miles in any direction would come to R.N. Johnson for its service, said farmer Chris Caserta of Walpole Valley Farm.

Caserta said he is saddened to hear the news that Johnson's was no longer a John Deere deanship.

"R.N. Johnson had a pristine reputation, and the whole town and community was very proud of that, so it is very disappointing," Caserta said. "John Deere is synonymous with America. You think tractor, you think John Deere."

Ernie and Susan Vose of Vose Farm said they aren't sure what the loss of the dealership means for Johnson's.

"They've been very, very generous towards the community and 4-H in particular," Ernie Vose said.

Susan Vose said, "It's just a wonderful local story. . We just wish the best for the family."

Alan Johnson said the loss of the John Deere brand is just that, but R.N. Johnson will continue. John Deere tractors will be replaced by another company's tractors, he said. The company already has other relationships with several other companies that supply the store with other garden and farm equipment, he said.

John Deere has been threatening to pull out its dealership for the past 10 years, he said. John Deere is not interested in dealing with the small business owner any more as a dealership, Johnson said.

John Deere did not respond Wednesday to a request for comment.

R.N. Johnson will keep its John Deere Museum open and plans to continue selling John Deere toys, bicycles and other merchandise.



mpierce@newstote.com



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