ORIGINALLY WRITTEN JERRY ENGLER
Harry and Sheryle Rhodes have been able to buy a business that has occupied them most of their adult lives, provided critical service to area farmers and survived as a historical community mainstay.
G&R Implement in Durham ought to feel like home to the Rhodes since both of them were born and raised in the Durham community.
Harry first went to work at G&R for owners Ben and Anna Mae Goertz in 1971. He and Sheryle purchased the business Jan. 1.
Ben Goertz died a couple of years, but Anna Mae continues to work in the business with Harry and Sheryle. Harry said he appreciates being able to have Anna Mae work in a familiar role to her: shipping out parts by United Parcel Service.
Shipping parts throughout central Kansas, especially within a 75- to 100-mile radius, is one of the major functions G&R performs.
Harry said the customer base grows through the company’s basic goal: “I want to treat the customers like I want to be treated, with honesty and integrity.
“I try to see where they are looking for more help so I can do that for them,” he added. “We all try to be friendly and treat everybody equally no matter where they fit on the totem pole.”
Harry said he feels like he has seen that attitude work for G&R for as long he has been familiar with it. He said Ben’s father, Henry, began the business in 1927 as a John Deere dealership called Durham Hardware and Implement.
Sometime in the 1940s, the business became an Oliver tractor and equipment dealership. Eventually White Tractor Co. bought Oliver, and then AGCO bought White. The business changed with each transition to a different manufacturer.
Today the main business is working on White and Oliver machinery. Three young men do the mechanics in the G&R shop. One of them is daughter Michelle’s husband, Ken Giesbrecht. His co-mechanics are Travis Koehn and Terry Hiebert.
Two other Rhodes children, Darrin and Janene, still live in Durham. A fourth child, Michael, lives in Arkansas.
G&R also handles sales and repairs on several other lines of equipment.
Harry said the company is a new Vermeer dealership with a good selection of hay equipment. It also is a dealer and repair provider for Bush Hog rotary mowers, Country Clipper lawn mowers and Stihl chain saws, trimmers and tillers.
Harry has seen many changes in the business and in the Durham community, but he is pleased to see many of the same people returning to town and much of the community character preserved.
Fewer farmers work the same land these days and Harry said equipment has become both more expensive and more complex.
He said most machinery used to run on mechanical principles with a simple electronic system. Today’s models are loaded with electronics and computerized systems.
Rhodes said the first big round balers sold in the $4,000 range. Today most of them cost around $40,000.