In 1959, Ken Bellamy and his younger brother, Joe, bought the John Deere franchise in Elwood.
Wednesday, 53 years after the purchase, LandMark Implement will take over Bellamy. A closeout auction will be July 30.
“Landmark has agreed to keep it for one year. All of our employees will keep their jobs.” Ken said. “It’s what the implement business is coming to. There’ll be about four or five dealerships left in Nebraska.”
When Ken and Joe bought the dealership from Art Beck, it was housed in a small building now occupied by Plum Creek Promotions just west of state Highway 23 and U.S. Highway 381.
“We sold everything we owned, even my shotgun, to buy the place,” Ken said. “It was tough raising money in those days.”
It’s been very much a family business.
Joe sold out two years later to another brother, Jack, who was then surveying in the oil fields of Saudi Arabia.
In the 1960s, Ken took over the John Deere franchises in Curtis and Arapahoe at about the same time. He had arranged to buy the John Deere dealership in Lexington, but corporate heads wouldn’t allow it.
“They said they didn’t want big dealerships,” Ken recalls. “Now, big dealerships is what they want.”
In 1976, the Bellamy company moved to its present location after acquiring the 10.5 acres where the dealership now sits at the west edge of Elwood.
When they began selling tractors, Ken said prices were less than $5,000.
“Now, a new tractor’ll cost over $100,000, and the bigger ones run into $300,000 to $400,000, depending on the size and equipment,” he said.
Because of the changes in farming in the last 50 years, Ken said, their dealership had to change the way it approached selling the machines.
“They farm more ground. There are fewer farmers. For us, it means fewer customers, but the change in equipment means an emphasis on service,” he said.
Tractors have become bigger and more sophisticated and have more technology to help farmers out, he said.
“They’ll even drive themselves. All you have to do is turn them around. You could fall asleep in one of the things and wind up in a ditch,” Ken said. “You’re continually going to school to learn the latest technology. Many dealers can’t afford to have a person with the technical expertise. We’re fortunate. We do have the people and have been able to provide the service.”
Bellamy also had his share of interesting customers and shipping assignments.
“A fellow from Arapahoe went to Australia to farm and wanted a tractor. He called us. I remember we had to cut off the ends of the axle to make it fit in the shipping container,” Ken said.
Leaving the business is going to be tough, he said.
“I’m going to miss the people that come in and that called on us, our customers,” he said.
Even though he won’t be selling tractors, Ken plans to keep busy. He butchers weekly at his farm north of Farnam for friends and neighbors.
“We butcher everything. Chickens, turkeys, elk, deer, cows, hogs and even a bull once in awhile,” he said.