Source: Ottawa Community News

A Carp, Ont., firm is talking over a long-time Renfrew farm supply business.

John A. Burnett, an area institution, is changing ownership after more than 50 years. Reis Equipment of Carp took over at the Renfrew O’Brien Road location April 1. This makes it a fourth dealership for them.

The other three dealerships for Jeff and Julie Reis and Hugh Hodgins of Reis Equipment are in Carp, Winchester and St.-Isidore.

It ends a long and impressive career in the farm equipment business for John Burnett. He grew up on a farm and a day after finishing school in 1951, began working for International Harvester.

Burnett was in Belleville for a couple of years before being transferred to Renfrew.

“I was here a year, or so, and when they went to transfer me somewhere else, they (McArthur Farm Supply) made me an offer and I stayed.”

The epicentre of the business was in a summer kitchen and one-car garage at 224 Argyle St., where Andy McArthur lived. A couple of years later, the business moved to its current location.

In 1962, John and wife Rita purchased McArthur Farm Supply. Since then, the business has grown in leaps and bounds, as has the Town of Renfrew.

A plaque on the wall in Burnett’s office from the day reads, “International Harvester is pleased to announce the appointment of a new farm equipment dealership for Renfrew and vicinity to be known as McArthur and Burnett Farm Supply. A new place of operation is being established a half mile south of Renfrew on Highway 17.”

‘Half a mile south’ is now almost the centre of Renfrew.

“I’m 53 years here, and 11 with International Harvester before that,” John said, “and I milked cows before that,” he added with a grin.

“Renfrew is a wonderful town to raise a family. Very nice,” Rita said. “We lived on Basswood. Everybody had young children and they just had a wonderful time. They could walk to the beach with a towel over their shoulders.”

John and Rita are the parents of five – Shirley-Ann Holley, John Burnett, Mary-Liz Burnett, Margaret Burnett and Tom Burnett.

“All five of us have worked here at one time or another,” Mary-Liz said.

Family members brought up a few names of employees from present and the past.

“One of the first employees for dad was George Whalen,” son John said. “He lived in Admaston. I think he started right out of high school.”

Another name in the company for years is Ambrose Burnett, John’s younger brother. “Ambrose was the manager when we had the Pembroke location,” Mary-Liz recalled. He started in 1973 and is retiring this year.

Several other long-term employees include Kent Storie in the shop, Wayne Ready in parts, Max Yaraskavitch, Bob Dagenais, Brian Reinert, Paul Boudreau and Kelly McNulty, Mary-Liz added.

Shirley-Ann Holley has been employed at her father’s business for 32 years. John and Rita’s son-in-law Bernard Holley has also worked with the company for a number of years, while many of the grandchildren have worked there part time.

“It’s going to be a big change, but I think we’re ready for it,” John said of retirement. “I know we’re ready for it,” Rita added.

“Something that is going on in the industry is that farm equipment corporations don’t want single dealers anymore,” Mary-Liz said.

“Not that we felt pressured to leave the industry, but that’s the way it’s going. It works perfectly. This is a great partnership, selling to Reises.”

The Burnetts thank the many customers and co-workers who brought them happiness over 53 years and wishes Reis Equipment continued success.

John said he and Rita will be driving by and be keeping an eye on the place.