Farm Talk

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October 2, 2013

Business driven by integrity and passion

Parsons, Kansas — Knowledgeable, caring, honest — these are words colleagues and business partners use to describe R.D. Vestal of the former Vestal Equipment dealership, Bolivar, Missouri. On Sept. 10, the dealership officially became one of Crown Power and Equipment’s six locations.

The year was 1946 and Vestal’s father, Ernie Vestal, was living in Springfield, Mo., working his way up the corporate ladder for International Harvester. When asked to move to Chicago, Ernie, not wanting to leave the area, decided to take advantage of a dealership opportunity in Marshfield, Mo.

“He ran the dealership in Marshfield and then he and his brother brought the store to Bolivar in the early ‘60s,” said Vestal.

At the time, small dairies spread across the area, making them Vestal Equipment’s main market.

“There were more dairies in Greene County and surrounding counties than anyplace else in the United States,” Vestal explained. “So that’s what we based our business on.”

It was 1970, and Vestal was following in his father’s professional footsteps at International Harvester. With plans to stay with the company, he was approached by the General Manager in Kansas City.

“He said ‘You know, you’ll have a good future with International Harvester. But, I wish I would have had the foresight and the vision that your dad had by staying in a dealership.’”

Vestal explained that in the time the man had been with the company he had moved 18 times.

Conflicted, Vestal called another International Harvester mentor in Topeka, Kansas, where he had started out as a trainee.

“I called him and asked what I should do, and he said, ‘You have an opportunity there in Bolivar and I sure wouldn’t pass it up,’” Vestal explained. “They were the ones who talked me into going to Bolivar and staying with the business locally.”

As time went on, the business began to change with the market. The dairy industry was moving west towards larger farms and Vestal’s customers were getting into the beef cattle business. As Vestal worked to meet the customer needs, he gained strong relationships and respect for his clientele.

“The agricultural clientele work a very difficult job and yet they are probably the most honest people with integrity you’ll meet,” he said. “That’s always been a benefit of working in this business. You have to respect them for what they do because they do a lot harder work than most people do in a 40 hour week.”

That drive to serve customers will continue as Crown Power and Equipment takes over.

General Manager of Crown Power, Harold Chapman, explained that customers will have more access to equipment and services because of the dealership’s other locations.

“We have a couple employees that all they do is work on the GPS devices. It will sure give our customers an option to get help they didn’t have in the past,” Chapman said. “At the same time, this is a good store and has good people in it.”

Those good people are the ones Vestal made sure were taken care of first with the ownership change. Chapman said all employees remained the same, including Joe Glenn — 20-year Vestal veteran who is now Crown Power’s Store Manager — holds the same idealistics as Vestal when it comes to business.

“Our people have jobs to go on with and our customers have a place we can provide service, parts and implement needs,” Glenn said when asked about the most exciting part of the transition. “And we have a chance to grow and continue on.”

Although the final change in ownership was made Sept. 10, the transition from Vestal Equipment to Crown Power and Equipment will take time. R.D will continue to serve the customers he loves as an ambassador for  Crown Power during the transition.

“I can’t say enough about the fact that these businesses are made up of people. The friendships that you make with your customers are something that you value all your life,” he concluded. £

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