February 16, 2014

Oldest to newest: Winamac John Deere dealership merging

Oldest U.S. John Deere dealership merging to become newest

by Sarah Einselen Pharos-Tribune

---- — WINAMAC — America’s oldest John Deere dealership is about to become its newest.

Gilsinger Implement in Winamac is merging with Monticello dealership Howard and Sons and Holland, Mich.-based Fillmore Equipment. The three dealerships’ new unified name is GreenMark Equipment.

Long touted as the oldest John Deere dealership in the U.S., Gilsinger Implement was founded in 1899 by John Shank and Joseph Gilsinger, whose grandson Paul Gilsinger now runs the dealership. It now has six sites.

“We went from the oldest to the youngest,” Paul Gilsinger said. He added, however, that the staff members are “the same great people we have, only a new name.”

Howard and Sons in Monticello is run by third- and fourth-generation Howards, Mark and Ryan, whose ancestor Arthur Howard founded the business in 1934 in Monon before it moved to Monticello in the mid-1980s.

“You take quite a bit of history between just the two of us, over those years,” Ryan Howard said.

The new company appears to be based in Holland, Mich., home of Fillmore Equipment. The website redirects to Fillmore Equipment’s site.

However, the new company’s leaders felt the merger included enough changes to warrant a new identity rather than wrapping two of the dealerships into the third, Gilsinger said.

“We thought that the sum total of all the dealerships was better than just picking one and saying we merged with them,” he explained. “It’s enough of a change we thought it merited a new name.”

All told, the new merged dealership will boast 16 locations. The companies expect to benefit from improved efficiencies, broader availability of talent, streamlined facility and operating costs and increased employee investment, according to a press release.

“Now we’re part of a bigger organization and have more resources to draw on,” Gilsinger said.

He said the last five to six years have treated Gilsinger Implement well — the business has ridden growth in the larger agricultural sector and its newest two dealership, the Plymouth and Warsaw locations acquired in 2003, have prospered.

The latest move is a merger similar to what took place between Green Power of Logasport, Jackson-Lee-Pearson of Flora and Frankfort and Harper Implement of Swayzee in 2011. That year, the three dealerships merged to become Tri-Green Tractor.

“We were looking at trends in agriculture — larger farms, fewer farmers, larger equipment,” Gilsinger said.

With those trends came the dealership’s need for parts and service specialists and a greater stock of used inventory.

“Some of those things you can do with scale that it’s harder to do on your own,” Gilsinger said.

The Gilsinger Implement locations employ over 100 people, and 70 percent to 80 percent of those work in parts and service. Gilsinger anticipated additional training for some of the service technicians and expected techs also to start consulting with others now part of the GreenMark business who had formerly worked on machines for either Howard and Sons or Fillmore Equipment.

Howard and Sons employs 35 workers, according to Ryan Howard.

Both Howard and Gilsinger said the number of employees at their locations won’t decrease as a result of the merger.

Gilsinger, however, was reluctant to rule out further growth, saying whether another dealership would open or be purchased was “to be determined.”

Sarah Einselen is news editor at the Pharos-Tribune. She can be reached at or 574-732-5151. Twitter: @PharosSME