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John Deere dealership making a move

April 30, 2006|By CANDICE BOSELY

In more ways than one, the nature of farming in Washington County is changing. One thing that hasn't changed for more than 50 years, though, is the presence of green and yellow John Deere tractors on Maugans Avenue north of Hagerstown.

Not for long.

The business is moving later this year to a larger and more modern location on Cearfoss Pike, but Landmark Equipment owner Dave Quirple said he remains as committed to serving today's large farmers as he is to serving the growing number of people seeking smaller tractors for "farmettes" and backyards.

And, green and yellow will still be the dominant colors at the new location, since the business will remain an official John Deere dealership.

Quirple, 39, grew up in Philadelphia and graduated from Messiah College in Pennsylvania. He sold surgical devices in Pittsburgh before moving to Hagerstown in 1999 to be closer to his wife's family.

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His father-in-law, Harold Showalter, is the vice president at Landmark and encouraged Quirple to become involved with the business.

John Deere equipment available at Landmark ranges from push mowers that start at a couple of hundred dollars to large farm machinery that costs around a quarter of a million dollars.

New and used tractors and related equipment is sold.

John Deere construction vehicles, chain saws, blowers, weed trimmers, clothing and toys are available. One can even buy party plates and other items emblazoned with the John Deere logo.

A woman's T-shirt for sale reads, "Save a Horse, Ride a Tractor."

Selling more than tractors

Hardware, home maintenance kits, cleaners, and a large parts and service department round out the business, as well as two mobile units that can service mowers at the lawnmower owner's property.

The business has been on Maugans Avenue for decades, although it moved across the street to its present site in 1971. Over the years it has been named "Martin's Trading Center," "Leroy S. Martin & Sons" and, most recently before the current name was adopted, "Carlyle & Martin Inc."

Quirple bought the Cearfoss Pike land - 16 acres - in 2002 and bought the business from his father-in-law last year.

The business has an average employment of 20 to 25, with spring being its busiest season. Operations are scaled back a bit in the summer, fall and winter, Quirple said.

Ground should be broken for the new facility in a few weeks, and Quirple said he hopes to be completely moved in by this time next year.

The new building will be three times larger than the existing space, will have more showroom space and will be more retail-oriented.

Farming drives business

Quirple didn't appear to be joking when he said the prospect of moving the immense inventory keeps him awake at night.

"That's going to be a job," he said.

Despite the reduction in the number of farms in the region, agriculture still makes up the bulk of Quirple's business in terms of sales.

More lawn tractors might be sold, but the higher prices of larger farm equipment mean such sales make up 85 percent of the revenue of the business.

Also, while fewer large farms are in operation, Quirple said more "farmettes" have opened up a new market.

Connecting with nature again

The number of 10- to 20-acre farmettes has increased, with many owned by people who used to live in the city and wanted to retire to a more bucolic setting, he said.

"They would like to connect with nature again," Quirple said. "In fact that's a phrase John Deere uses, 'Connecting you to the land.'"

Although Quirple is not a farmer he said the community has been receptive.

"It was a big adjustment. I really grew up in the city. I'm a city kid. Going to the agricultural field has been challenging but it's also been a big learning experience," he said.

As a company, John Deere was named after its founder, who was born in Vermont in 1804. After moving to what was then the frontier in Illinois, Deere developed the first successful self-scouring (self-cleaning) steel plow in 1837.

Tractors became a part of the company when it purchased the Waterloo (Iowa) Gasoline Traction Engine Co. in 1918.

"I like about John Deere that it's a company that's been stable over the past approximately 175 years. It's a company that stands for hard work, integrity, quality. They back up their products," Quirple said.

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