on Thursday, January 27, 2011
WINDHAM – In 1961, when he was just 23 years old, George Hall, who had grown up working for his father Stanley at the family farm at Foster’s Corner in Windham, made a decision that would affect the rest of his life.
He agreed to take over a John Deere dealership at Morrill’s Corner in Portland, move the inventory to a farmhouse near his father’s farm and start selling and servicing farm tractors and equipment.
Hall Implement, through the hard work of George, his now-deceased wife Sandra, and their two boys, Don and Steve, has grown to become one of Windham’s landmark businesses and a destination for customers seeking John Deere equipment. The company is observing its 50th anniversary this month.
The Halls’ long run as a thriving small business, however, didn’t come easily or automatically. As the region’s character changed from rural to suburban, Hall Implement had to shift with the times to keep up.
Back in 1961, when farms still dotted the southern Maine landscape, farm customers were all George Hall needed to make the business profitable. Over the years however, Hall Implement has had to change with the times. As the number of farms dwindled in the 1970s and 1980s, Hall Implement, like the John Deere line itself, diversified into commercial and consumer lines.
Now, commercial accounts such as landscapers, school systems, colleges and municipalities, as well as homeowners, are the dominant demographic. As a result Hall Implement carries a full line of non-agricultural equipment.
“People come to us for advice on what they should buy,” said store manager Steve Hall. “We’re always educating the public for what they need for their particular home or application. We always work with the customer to define their needs to get them the right piece of equipment for the job. That’s something we do daily.”
George Hall’s two sons, Steve Hall and Don Hall, started young in the family business. At about 9 years old, Don Hall would milk cows at his grandfather’s farm starting at 3:30 a.m. He’d then go to school and come back to help out at his father’s shop. Steve Hall had a similar upbringing, learning the family business by observing and then taking part in both service and sales. The two boys grew up around John Deere tractors, and after high school stepped into full-time roles at the family business.
Steve Hall, now 47, serves as the store manager and is involved mostly with product sales and parts. He also runs Hall Implement’s vast toy department, something his father George put him in charge of when he was a teenager. “I’ve done it ever since,” Steve Hall said. “We have a huge toy department, people come from all over.”
Don Hall, 51, heads up the service side of the business. Hall Implement has three service bays and can handle everything from a large farm tractor to a weedwacker. The company only services the lines they sell, namely John Deere, Land Pride (attachments) and Echo. Don Hall also delivers 95 percent of the new machines. Don’s wife, Beth, works for the family business answering phones, going on mail runs, and filling in for vacations.
In recent years, a third generation of Halls has come to the fore. Don’s son, Derek, has become a crucial part of the team, working with his father in the service department. Derek is also in charge of training employees and generally making sure parts are in stock and things run smoothly.
“He’s worked into the business real well, he’s a very important part,” Steve Hall said. “Derek’s been around the shop and store since he was 2 years old; he’s in his mid-20s now. And he’s always had interest in it.”
Don’s daughter Lindsey is also involved part-time with the family business. All told, Hall Implement employs 15 year-round full- and part-time employees, family members included.
The patriarch of the business, George Hall, couldn’t be happier that his sons and now grandchildren are involved.
“It just shows what can be done when you have a good family and good employees. You can’t do this by yourself. It’s taken long hours, hard work and good fortune,” George Hall said. “And don’t forget the customers. We’ve got great customers. We have three generations of Halls, but we also have three generations of customers. It’s taken good customers as well.”
Some of those “good customers” include southern Maine farmers who will drive a ways just to get to the Windham store.
Rick Grant, who is the eighth generation of Grants to operate the 500-acre Grant’s Farm in North Saco, uses nothing but John Deere equipment bought at Hall Implement. Grant, 52, remembers going to Hall Implement as a boy with his father and remained loyal to the Windham dealership after he bought the family farm in 1983. One of Maine’s largest growers, Grant mainly sells vegetables to Hannaford Bros. and Sysco.
“They are awful nice folks up there, they really are,” Grant said. “I’ve bought four or five tractors there, sprayers, planters, other implements. But it boils down to service and value. You can buy a cheaper tractor of another color, but you get a cheaper tractor of another color, in my opinion.”
Richard Sullivan of Scarborough, owner of R.J. Sullivan Landscaping, travels to Hall Implement to buy his commercial equipment.
“I’m the third generation in my family to buy products there,” Sullivan said. “My grandfather was a farmer. My dad was a landscaper/farmer. And I’m a landscaper. I can’t say enough about their service and parts. It’s the best; they’re nice people, too. It almost feels like family. They make you feel very comfortable.”