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Friday
December 13th, 2019

keating outsideThe outside of Keating Tractor and Equipment’s current location at 1900 2nd Street Road. This year marks the store’s 60th anniversary of being part of Liberal and the Keating family expressed pride at being able to help the Liberal community for so long. L&T photo/Elly GrimmELLY GRIMM • Leader & Times

 

Many Liberal businesses celebrated major milestones this past year including Electric Motor Service and National Beef. 

This year also saw Keating Tractor and Equipment celebrate its 60th anniversary of being in business in the community, and the company is very proud of the milestone. 

“It makes us proud to think we’ve made it this far. Every business has its good times and bad, but we’ve made it through with the help of our dedicated employees and amazing loyal/lifetime customers and their families!” Russ Keating said. “Some of our employees have been with us 30 years or more. Some of the farmers/customers have been here for 60 years or more. We thank them all! We have kept Keating Tractor at a single location even though John Deere Company has encouraged a lot of smaller dealers to merge into large multi store locations.  We just drive a little farther to take care of our customer needs and we pride ourselves in great customer service.”

Jim and Marlene Keating, who grew up in the Liberal area, purchased the dealership (located on 2nd Street between Lincoln Avenue and Grant Avenue at that time) in November 1958 from Merle Davis. Jim was working for Symons Motors, where he sold Lincoln Mercury vehicles and Ford tractors. The John Deere dealership was for sale at the time and Jim was encouraged to purchase the dealership, with him and Marlene mortgaging their home and all they had to purchase it. The showroom stayed on 2nd Street and a service shop was later built at Keating Tractor and Equipment’s current location at West 2nd Street Road, and the rest of the business was moved there in 1964. A second store was opened in Beaver, Okla. IN 1971 and was open for several years.  

The Keating children, Rick, Russ and Julie, each started working at the store in elementary school for $0.10 an hour and Julie began helping with daily operation in 1983.  After Jim’s death in 1996, Russ took over current ownership and Rick ran the My Green Pastures section until retiring in 1998. Third-generation family members Alex Parsons, Jess Parsons and Nash Keating are also currently part of the store’s staff. 

And in the 60 years Keating Tractor and Equipment has been part of Liberal, there have indeed been many changes.

“We bought the store in Beaver in 1971 and then John Deere made us close in the late 1980’s, all of those employees then moved to our Liberal location.  We average about 20 service department employees between technicians and truck drivers,” Marlene said. 

“Over the last 15 years, we’ve done extensive remodeling to the facilities to accommodate more than 45 employees and modernize our departments. With additions in 2007, 2011 and 2017, the service department has over 30,000 square feet of space to better accommodate all of our service needs. And technology advances have had a huge impact,” third-generation family member Alex Parsons said. “Cost of steel and manufacturing over the last 60 years has increased tremendously which has farmers making much larger investments in their farm equipment. Back in the 1960’s a John Deere 4020 tractor probably cost $9,000, and now that same tractor today would list at almost $300,000. The size of customer operations have continued to expand as well, requiring larger equipment. In 1964, there were 259 farms in Seward County alone according to the Kansas State Board of Agriculture, Kansas Crop & Livestock Reporting Service Jan. 13, 1969 report and today the number of farms in Seward County with harvested cropland is 141, according to the USDA National Agriculture Statistics Service from 2012.”

The Keatings are also very excited about the future and said the company will be in Liberal for many, many years. 

“You have to change with the times and the family will continue to own/operate it,” Alex said. “I know when people think of John Deere, they think tractors and large agriculture equipment.  But we also have apparel for all ages, gifts, collectibles, lawn and garden equipment, grills, power tools and more.  In fact, we have more than 20,000 square feet in parts and retail showroom space!”

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