Johnson Tractor relocates, opens largest store yet

‘We're just really proud to be able to show it off finally’

Jeff Helfrich
Posted 8/2/21

“To see it all come together and getting the aerial shot, that was pretty special to me,” Leo Johnson, president of Johnson Tractor, said. “It took 14 or 15 months. But I'm really glad it happened.”

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Johnson Tractor relocates, opens largest store yet

‘We're just really proud to be able to show it off finally’

Posted

ROCHELLE ⏤ Johnson Tractor recently sent one of its technicians up in a plane from the Rochelle Municipal Airport. 

The technician took some aerial photos of the company’s new location at 200 Steward Rd. 

“To see it all come together and getting the aerial shot, that was pretty special to me,” Leo Johnson, president of Johnson Tractor, said. “It took 14 or 15 months. But I'm really glad it happened.”

Johnson Tractor recently publicly announced its move to the new location, which it’s been doing business in since July 6. It previously had a location at 1030 S. 7th St. in Rochelle. The new location is the company’s largest of its five retail locations across southern Wisconsin and northern Illinois. 

The family-owned Case IH and Kubota dealer is planning a celebration to thank customers and team members for 41 years of successful business growth in the fall. The 50,000 square foot building offers customers an open layout with an expo room, a large showroom, a modern air-conditioned service center and parking on 12 acres with new and used inventory.

“The increase in the size and complexity of all modern equipment, be it a 36-row corn planter or a large zero turn lawn mower, drove us to improve our facility to keep up with the demands of our customers, suppliers, and employees,” Johnson said. “Rochelle is a key market for us, and we appreciate the support you have given our dealership for the past 16 years.”

Johnson said the main aspect of the decision to move was a shortage of space at its old building. Equipment has gotten larger over the years and requires more space. More parts are stocked than in years past. Johnson Tractor built a similar store in Janesville eight years ago and Johnson said the company learned a lot from that process. 

Being able to create an ideal environment for customers and employees was also part of the thinking behind the move. 

“For employees we wanted to create someplace where they drive by on the weekends with their family and they can point out that this is where they work and be proud of it,” Johnson said. “A nice and safe environment for our employees. A comfortable work environment.”

The new facility is visible from the interstate, which was another amenity Johnson wanted from the move. Its previous lot was seven acres smaller than the new location. 

Johnson Tractor owned the 7th Street location for 16 years. The City of Rochelle recently purchased that property for $1.3 million to house and consolidate Rochelle Municipal Utilities employees and equipment. 

Johnson said his company was ‘ahead of the curve’ when building during the COVID-19 pandemic. The property was bought nearly three years ago. Building materials have been in a shortage due to supply chain issues and now come at a higher price. 

Johnson said the building could have cost between 50-100 percent more if construction started later than it did. 

“It was a matter of getting the timing right to build,” Johnson said. “We had our building ordered prior to the pandemic. It got delivered right about the time everything was starting to happen. We were fortunate we beat all of the hefty price increases in steel. And our availability was good because it was already here. We didn't have any major shortages or issues in building.” 

Johnson said the new location is 99 percent complete. The only supply chain problems seen involved things like shelving for the showroom. The dealership side has seen inventory issues much like car dealerships have due to a chip shortage. Inventory has been “slow” building up after expecting larger inventory in the larger location. 

Johnson’s favorite parts of the new building include the expo room for sales, a room for technicians to do online training, a large break room and two overhead cranes in the service shop, which is air conditioned with a heated floor. 

When Johnson started with the company, he was the fifth total employee. Johnson Tractor now has over 100 employees. 

"It's really fun to see stuff go up,” Johnson said. “When the first bit of steel starting going up and the roof came on, it looked like something was actually happening. You drive by and see the progress. When we got it enclosed and we saw all the work on the inside, it was a lot of fun. 

“The most exciting part for me was when I'd be gone for a few days and come back and see the progress made.”