Our Company History
R.N. Johnson, Inc.
Company History
As Told By Alan Johnson
12/29/98

R.N. Johnson, Inc. is believed to be one of the four or five oldest John Deere dealers in the WORLD!!!! Founded in 1929 by Ralph Nathan (Jack) Johnson, It has enjoyed seventy years of continuous operation by the Johnson family.

Few people know what R.N. stands for. From the moment of his birth at a farm carved out of the side of Mt. Sunapee by his great grandfather, he was known as Jack. Later in life, business associates and customers alike often referred to him simply as R.N. The oldest of six children, Jack was introduced to agriculture by his father and grandfather and to the natural world by his mother. Both disciplines became life-long loves. From a one room schoolhouse in Newport, Jack went on to the University of New Hampshire for a degree in agriculture, graduating in 1921. After several frustrating years in Washington, DC running a dairy for "investors", Jack moved back to NH, settling in Walpole. Walpole was home to Oliver Hubbard, a friend from college.

Oliver was already getting his family's poultry business off to what would eventually become a world-wide venture and took it upon himself to help Jack get started. Oliver took Jack to a new farm on Barnett Hill, set up to milk cows but foreclosed on by the bank before ever operating. Jack bought the farm for $1400 financing the entire amount with Oliver co-signing the loan. At the time, Jack had less than $10 to his name owed money on his furniture, but owned his Nash outright. This willingness to go out on a limb never left him.

With no money to buy cows for the barn, Jack made the fateful decision to grow potatoes. That first year he put in 23 acres, harvested a bumper crop and never looked back. Like most farmers in the twenties, Jack Johnson shared a problem; horses were slow and the mechanized farm machinery industry was still in it's infancy. Tractor power was acknowledged to be faster and more productive but parts and service were a problem. In 1929 Jack became a dealer for Thompson & Hogue the distributor for Deere in Concord, NH.

Initially, Johnson's primary motivation for becoming a dealer was to supply his own growing potato operation with equipment, parts and service, selling to neighbors on the side. For most of the first ten years,
Jack operated his farm and dealership side-by-side on a remote hillside overlooking the town of Walpole. His potato business was expanding rapidly, eventually becoming the largest operation in New Hampshire. At the same time, the dealership business was also expanding rapidly and needed space of its own.

First he moved the dealership into Walpole Village taking over the old livery stable. This move proved to be short lived as he outgrew the space almost immediately. In 1940 Jack bought a large farm a mile north of town which was sitting idle. R.N. Johnson, Inc. was moved into a converted sheep barn, where it is headquartered to this very day.

Ten years later, Jack had to make a decision. The potato business and the machinery business had both grown to a size where each demanded all of his considerable energy if they were to be run properly. Jack sold off his farms and devoted the rest of his life (93 years) to the machinery business.

Throughout it's seventy year history R.N. Johnson has maintained an unwavering business philosophy:

- don't sell it if you can't service it
- stock parts for everything sold
- don't be afraid to try new things
- be honorable in everything

The dealership was founded back in 1929 to fill a need for parts and service on farm machinery. Today, the company employs twenty mechanics year-round, full-time. The parts department boasts a staff of eight and manages an inventory of parts approaching two million dollars. Johnson continues to stock parts for the two-cylinder "Poppin Johnnies" just becoming popular back in the twenties. While seventy years ago the dealership serviced a relatively small area right around Walpole, today it reaches out better than 70 miles in every direction with sales and service and routinely ships parts all over the United States and Canada. In fact, many of the company's regular parts customers are other John Deere dealers looking for discontinued parts for older equipment, no longer available through Deere.

The Johnson family has never been afraid to take risks and try new things. Back in 1940, Jack Johnson ordered a carload of JD Lindeman crawlers sight-unseen from an ad, because he knew they would work in his area. John Deere was slow to answer his questions so he picked up the phone and called Yakima Washington direct to place an order. That first carload was sold before it arrived and a second carload was ordered.

Lindeman liked his can do attitude and set him up as parts distributor for all of the US east of the Mississippi! From 1940 to the present Johnson's have continued wholesaling a variety of products to other dealers in addition to the company's retail business.

When John Deere started sticking its toe in the water for industrial equipment in the fifties with the model 64 all angling T bar control dozer, Johnson jumped at the chance. When John Deere announced The "110", its first lawn and garden tractor in 1963, Johnson responded by establishing a separate facility- the Small Machines Division. In 1964 Jack was introduced to a small French company called Kuhn with a revolutionary new hay tedder, it wasn't long before R.N. Johnson was importing container loads for distribution to other equipment dealers throughout New England.

Today, the company constantly searches trade and industry sources for new products and services that may fill a need for either their retail or wholesale customers.

Alan Johnson, company president and treasurer and grandson of Jack Johnson is fond of saying- "Good news travels fast but bad news will beat you home." This pretty much sums up the company's policy of not ignoring problems. The company strives to only handle quality products but when a problem inevitably arises, the company deals with it quickly, courteously and professionally. "People don't enjoy hassles. Life is complicated enough. We try to take care of any situation before it becomes a hassle to our customer. The bottom line is to treat everyone the way you would like to be treated, and not do things that appear to be deceptive, dishonest, unscrupulous, or even the shady side of acceptable."

R.N. Johnson, Inc. has matured into one of the largest equipment dealers in the northeast, with fifty full time employees, many millions of dollars inventory and $ 10 million annual sales. Customers are amazed when they visit R.N. Johnson's for the first time, at how "un-big" it seems. Many customers are on a first name basis, the building itself is unpretentious emphasizing its humble sheep barn origin rather than camouflaging it, relics of former days in agriculture are on display as are pictures of the life and times of Jack Johnson. It doesn't take much encouragement to get Alan to take out three or four old scrap books chronicling the family's and the business' history which are understandably inter-twined.



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