MELVIN — One of the largest John Deere dealers in East Central Illinois is getting bigger.
Arends Bros., with locations in Melvin, Urbana, Hoopeston and Ashmore, is slated to merge today (Monday, March 26) with Dwight-based Hogan Walker to form Arends Hogan Walker.
Together, the new dealership will have 10 locations ranging from Elburn on the north to Ashmore on the south. The company will have about 300 employees averaging more than 15 years of experience each.
"By doing this now, we will be a bigger and better resourced dealer," said Sean Hogan, the chief executive officer of Arends Hogan Walker.
"With the new technology coming down the John Deere pipeline, the timing of our merger is right," he said.
Chad Braden of Arends Bros. — now the chief operating officer of Arends Hogan Walker — said the combination "will allow us to be a greater source of new and used equipment" and give Arends Hogan Walker a bigger number of products.
"Our customers really won't see anything different in how we operate, except for our new signs," Braden said. "We will have the same places, same faces and even the same phone numbers at all of our locations."
Braden said the merger has been in the works about six months and was driven in part by advances in John Deere technology.
Both dealerships — similar to each other in size and scope — needed a broader trade area to support the new technology, he said.
John Deere has been providing a lot of customer support, but soon dealerships will need to provide that, Braden said.
"We've got to ramp up support as they bring new products on board," he said.
Already, several key service people at Arends Hogan Walker are certified as John Deere Master Technicians. Most of the rest are John Deere-certified in hydraulics, electrical diagnostics or air conditioning.
Braden said being a larger dealership gave the company another advantage: greater bargaining power in obtaining health care benefits for employees.
Arends Bros. dates back to 1932 when Henry Arends, with his sons Roy and Walt, acquired the franchise selling John Deere agricultural equipment in Melvin.
After two years, he moved the business from the back of a grain elevator to a large brick-front building that was its home for the next 43 years.
In 1946, Phil Arends joined his father Roy in the business, and by 1948, Phil's brother Rick had joined the operation. Soon after, the business took the Arends Bros. name.
In the late 1970s, the dealership moved to the east side of Melvin. Over time, new generations of the Arends family got involved in the business.
The family sold the business in 2006 to Braden, Mike Miller and Carey Davis.
Hogan Walker was formed in 1997 by the merger of Hogan Implement Co. in Dwight and Walker Sales, based in Morris.
Hogan Walker's dealerships are in Watseka, Dwight, Morris, Manteno, Somonauk and Elburn.