More than 60 Straub International customers met Tuesday in the business’s showroom to express concern about the company’s decision to close its Marion store this week.
CEO Larry Straub and President Ron Straub said customers would still be able to receive some services from the company while they worked to box everything up.
Service manager Josh Crawford will remain and operate a fully-equipped service vehicle. If Crawford didn’t have a part he needed, other store locations will provide it.
An auction was also a possibility.
Gary Evans asked what part of the store had not been making money.
“Over the past years, a lot of this has been whole goods or big equipment purchases in this market,” Larry Straub said. “It didn’t die a violent death. It was just that, over the long haul, the trends were not positive to keep this up.”
Evans added whether a limited version of the store might be kept open.
“So there was never any consideration into maybe saying ‘We won’t sell equipment here, but we’ll do parts and service if they were profitable?’” Evans asked. “You hate to cut the arm off if it’s just a finger that’s hurt.”
Larry Straub said a parts and service model wouldn’t work here.
“This wheat harvest was not a good wheat harvest for us in this store,” he said. “It was by far the worst one we had.”
Glenn Carlson, who lives 30 minutes away, asked why farmers were getting better deals in locations such as Salina.
“It just bleeds off from a bunch of different places, but we just were not getting the equipment flow through this dealership,” Larry said. “We looked at the long-range terms on this thing, and it just wasn’t going in the right direction.”
Glenn’s wife, Sandy, chimed in.
“We’ve got a dealership 10 miles from home,” Sandy said, “but I would rather come down here to pick up whatever we needed because the guys knew what I needed and helped me beyond measure.”
Bruce Spidle, general manager of Straub’s Salina store, said Straub salesmen had been instructed not to sell outside territories that were assigned to their stores.
“If a salesman sells outside that territory and another salesman in that territory knows about it,” he said, “a very substantial part of the commission gets transferred from that salesman to the other salesman.”
Peabody resident Merlyn Entz added:
“I think what I hear her saying is that we as customers like this parts department,” Entz said. “We like this parts department better than any other dealer.”
Howard Wittker, who lives near Emporia but shops at the Marion Straub location, expressed concern with where he would shop now.
After the Marion location closes, the closest location near him will be an hour and a half away in Wichita.
Comparing closing this store to the closing of another Straub store in Larned “is like comparing apples to oranges,” Wittker said. “Sounds like we’re kind of the stepchild out here — the forgotten stepchild.”
While many concerns were thrown around during the discussion, some also wanted to throw out their thanks.
“I want to thank all the guys that have worked in this store over the years,” Glenn said. “It’s unbelievable.”
Glenn then also asked whether Straub’s had considered asking customers for ideas before making a decision to close.
“We would have supported it,” one customer said.
But Ron Straub asked: “How would you support it? We’ve been here for 21 years, and we haven’t made it. How could we change it now?”
After questions died down, Larry Straub ended the discussion by thanking everyone for their business and for coming out to discuss their concerns.
“I know we’re probably not giving you all the answers you wanted to hear, but we do appreciate you hearing us out and letting us have a dialogue about things,” he said. “We will work very hard to take care of your needs.”