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Parent company may reopen Central Tractor

January 10, 2002

Parent company may reopen Central Tractor



By JULIE E. GREENE
julieg@herald-mail.com


Customers of Quality Stores Inc. stores such as Central Tractor Farm & Country in Hagerstown were taking advantage of going out of business prices Wednesday when news came that the store could reopen by the end of June.

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Quality Stores, which also operates stores under the names Quality Farm & Country, County Post, and Quality Farm & Fleet, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection on Nov. 1.

Recently, the Nashville, Tenn.-based Tractor Supply Co. announced plans to acquire about 85 of the 152 Quality stores left to expand its presence in the mid-Atlantic region, Massmann said.

The CT Farm & Country stores in Hagerstown and Chambersburg, Pa., and the Quality Farm & Fleet in Martinsburg, W.Va., are all "highly likely" to reopen, Tractor Supply Chief Financial Officer Cal Massmann said Wednesday.

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Tractor Supply officials don't expect to finalize those decisions and announce the final list of stores to be reopened for about 10 weeks, Massmann said.

Company officials were still evaluating whether to reopen the CT Farm & Country store in Frederick, Md., he said.

Bill Hawbaker said he became a regular customer at CT Farm & Country 30 years ago when he had to drive to the Frederick store. As soon as the Hagerstown store opened at 1701 Massey Blvd. on Sept. 20, 1990, he became a regular there.

"I do a lot of business with them," said Hawbaker, 51, who has a beef cattle and crop farm in the Boonsboro area.

Like other regular customers interviewed Wednesday, Hawbaker said the sooner the store reopens the better. Spring is coming and that's when farmers spend a lot of money fixing equipment and facilities.

Tractor Supply officials agree they want to reopen soon because business gets "real busy" starting in April, Massmann said.

The Quality stores will close when all the merchandise has been sold, said Elizabeth Wicks, spokeswoman for Gordon Brothers, a Boston firm hired to liquidate the stores.

Neither Wicks nor Massmann knew how many employees work at the local stores, but Massmann said a typical Tractor Supply store employs 20 to 30 people full or part time depending on the time of year and sales volume. Quality's corporate office in Muskegon, Mich., referred inquiries to Wicks or Massmann.

Some Quality district managers have been tentatively hired and the company will be conducting job interviews at Tractor Supply, Massmann said.

The stores reopened as Tractor Supply stores will focus more on rural needs and try to stay out of the "headlights of home centers and discount stores," Massmann said.

Sporting goods and house paint are some of the items Tractor Supply will not sell, he said.

What it will sell are hardware items needed to repair a barn, fence, old tractor and other farm equipment. The stores will continue to offer a greater selection of rugged outerwear than many discount stores, he said.

"It's a wonder they're still open due to the discount stores, but they have prices here to compete with them," said regular customer Harry Hollenbaugh, 67, of Halfway.

"I hope they do reopen," Hollenbaugh said. "To me they're a great store. I'll be back."

So would David Schooley, 67, of the Leitersburg area.

If the store doesn't reopen, it would be hard to find in one place the items Schooley said he needs. He described himself as a gentleman farmer with a 120-acre farm with sheep and goats.

Joe Weaver, 71, of the Robinwood area, buys automotive and hardware supplies at Central Tractor, which he calls his "favorite place."

He'd be thrilled if it reopens, although he said his wife is not as crazy about the store because he spends so much time there.

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