Doug Brown leans back in his chair behind a desk in his office at Brown’s Implement near Moorefield.
A stack of papers sits nearby. There are filing cabinets to go through; mementos to sort.
Goodbyes to be said.
After 121 years of doing business on the bend in the road on State Road 129 in Moorefield, Brown’s Implement officially closed its doors at the end of February. The business was sold to Andersons’ Sales and Service, which will assume the Kubota dealership, but has no current plans to keep the Moorefield location open.
“It’s been 121 years now,” Brown says, “My great grandfather, Cyrenius Brown, he bought the property in 1900. Of course he had the farm, and they had an orchard and sold apples and peaches once in awhile here on this property; and then they built the feed mill in the 1920’s.”
Brown said that after continuing to operate the feed mill, the Browns got into the equipment business in the late 1930s.
“I was told — I don’t know it for a fact — but they had the first tractor in Switzerland County in 1907,” Brown said. “They did custom work with it as well as their own work.”
Brown said that the family signed on as an Allis-Chalmbers dealership then — a brand that they would carry for nearly 40 years until about 1977.
“We had several other short lines with that, too,” Doug said. “Kubota came in 1994. It’s been real good to us.”
The building that currently houses Brown’s Implement was built around 1947.
“It’s an open span building,” Doug smiles. “Before they put in all the walls, as I understand it they used to have target shoots in here once in awhile. I’ve still got my aunt’s old Marlin .22 peep sight target rifle that she used.”
Cyrenius Brown was joined by Doug’s grandfather, Ethol Brown; and then Doug’s father, Norman — and then down to Doug.
The building — as well as Doug’s memory — are filled with Switzerland County history.
“During the 37 flood, dad drove down 129 and the river was up to about where Mike Leap lived,” Brown recalled. “He hiked over the hills back of Vevay, just to look at it. I guess that mark’s still on the bank on the corner where the water got to it. It must have been quite a sight.”
The conversation is interrupted by a ringing phone, and Brown answers it in his quiet voice, telling the caller that Brown’s isn’t in business anymore, so they’ll have to check elsewhere for their equipment.
Doug Brown has literally — and physically — grown up in the Brown’s Implement Building. At age 59, he doesn’t remember a time when he wasn’t there.
“My mom had a brain aneurysm in 1967,” Brown said. “It just about killed her, but she was in the hospital and the nursing home in Cincinnati for a good while. My home was pretty much in this office or over at my grandmother’s.”
Brown worked all through high school, noting that the family still had the feed mill operating until the early 1980s.
“I never did get too much of a chance to do anything like sports or anything like that,” Doug laughs. “I came home and went to work. I’ve been here all my life. It was tough. Dad’s been gone 16 years now.”
Doug said that his brothers and sisters all spent time working in and around the family business before going off to college or pursue other career paths.
“Barry (local history expert at the Switzerland County Public Library) was the oldest, then Bob,” Doug recites. “Bob was killed in 1967 when he was just 17 in a car accident. It happened over on 56 by Leland Wiley’s farm. Jerry’s next, he’s been out in Portland, Oregon for 30 years or so. Pam’s been out around Breckinridge, Colorado for about 30 years, working at the ski slopes and golf courses.”
The process of beginning to sell the business began last fall.
“It was a long process to do, and it was a hard decision to make,” Doug says. “I really wasn’t quite ready, but between what companies are requiring anymore, and the labor situation anymore — trying to get help. With the technology, you’ve got to have employees in school about as much as you do working.”
Brown said that much of the needed new knowledge comes from things like stricter standards on diesel engines by the Environmental Protection Agency.
And farming as an industry has changed.
“Back when we had a lot more dairies and small farmers, we catered to more of the hay guys,” Doug said. “Grain farming, the way it’s went now, huge equipment. We didn’t go that route, we kind of stayed with the hay equipment.”
And with all that history, Doug also pays homage to those longtime employees that have been a part of the fabric of Brown’s Implement.
“Yes,” he says. “John Jester, Gary Scott — they’ve been with me a lot of years. John, just semi-retired, and Gary is going to work with Andersons’ for awhile. (Wife) Julie had a surprise thing here last week for me, and a lot of grandpa and dad’s — several of their old employees —showed up. The oldest one was David Barnes. He worked for dad around 1960 — before I was here.”
The outpouring of support from the community, and the loyalty showed by many employees, makes Doug feel good about the imprint that Brown’s has made on the community.
“It was a good deal,” Doug said. “A lot of those guys. Friends. Local farmers and people who have done business with us over the years showed up. Dad and Grandpa and myself, we had several employees over the years; but it’s a tougher environment to find quality employees out there anymore.”
Andersons’ bought both the property and the business. Brown said that it’s his understand that they won’t keep all of the lines currently carried by Brown’s. He says that Andersons’ didn’t rule out the possibility of re-opening the Moorefield location down the road, but no promises were made.
“It’s very expensive to put in computer business systems anymore,” Doug said. “So it will sit empty for awhile anyway.”
So, what’s Doug Brown going to do next?
“Well, I’ve got the farm on the river now. I had the bright idea of putting cattle on it,” he says. “They keep me pretty busy, anyway. I’ll be able to take a little better care of them. I can cut hay when I need to.”
And — after working hard all of his life — Doug and wife Julie deserve a chance to relax a little more.
“I’ve enjoyed most of it,” he says. “I figure I was going into the fourth quarter of the ball game, so I needed to change things a little bit.”
And, he looks back at 121 years with a lot of pride.
“We’ve seen a lot of ups and downs both,” he says. “I’ve been really fortunate. I’ll probably help some local farmers some. Above all I’d like to thank all of our customers all over the area, too. Over the years. It goes back a long way. I truly appreciate all of them.”