Dayton's Tumac closes in changing landscape for farm equipment sales

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DAYTON -- Tumac Machinery closed its Main Street store here in November, a casualty in a trend toward consolidation among agriculture equipment dealers.

Changes in the agriculture industry have led the Walla Walla-based ag equipment retailer to revamp its own operations, said Tumac President Tim Larkin. The closure of the Dayton parts and service shop is the latest step in that.

"It was a very hard decision," Larkin said. "That store has done well for many years, basically selling consumables."

But what made it most profitable -- the Gleaner dealership -- is also the biggest driver of the change.

Tumac's flagship brand is John Deere, which is merging its various Eastern Washington and Northern Idaho dealers into a single dealership. As a merger condition, John Deere is requiring Tumac to discontinue with competitive product lines, such as Gleaner and Kubota.

Tumac's sale of its Kubota dealership on Rose Street last summer to Blueline Equipment Co. was a step in the process, Larkin said.

But consolidation of equipment dealers has been going on for some time. The local Case dealer is headquartered in Colfax. The New Holland dealership is part of a Tri-Cities chain. Tumac's former Kubota operation is now part of a larger Yakima-based group.

Larkin said owners made a "considerable effort" to sell the Dayton store, but they were not successful. He said ag manufacturer AGCO has assured Tumac owners Larkin and Dan McClure that it will support the Gleaner owners in the area, "but we do not know what those plans are."

Larkin expects the residents and farmers of Columbia County will not take the news well, especially since so many rely on the store.

"For a farmer, parts are the food of life," he said. "They're constantly tinkering. The terrain is rough."

But the change has been coming, although coming later to Walla Walla than many other places, he said.

Technology is changing the face of farming. As a consequence, it's changing the way farm equipment is sold, too.

On the plus side, there are added efficiencies. The challenge is maintaining personal service.

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