|Leon Atkins looks back on 40-year biz|
|Written by Darci Tomky|
“There’s been good years and hard years, but overall the business has been good to me,” said Leon Atkins, former owner of Leon Atkins Motors. Retirement feels good, according to Atkins, after being in the tractor business for 40 years.
Growing his business from one to 15 employees, Atkins has had much success in both Holyoke and Haxtun. One of the things he’s enjoyed the most has been getting to know his employees and the farmers in Phillips County.
Leon Atkins Motors’ history begins in 1970. Atkins’ dad had bought the Minneapolis-Moline business in Haxtun to give Atkins’ grandpa something to do. The small shop had one mechanic, and when he wanted to retire, an opportunity opened up for this young Haxtun native.
“I was crazy doing it, but it all worked out,” he said, remembering how he first got in business in 1970. “It’s something you only do as a young person.”
As the only employee, Atkins got some help getting started from his dad, and as they say, the rest is history.
The implement business was very good in the ’70s, said Atkins, so his new endeavor began to grow. He recalled his first employee was mechanic Ken Fetzer.
Leon Atkins Motors most recently carried Case IH equipment, but they have also had Minneapolis-Moline, White Motor Company and International Harvester products in the last 40 years.
Aktins expanded his business when he bought the Ford car dealership at the intersection of highways 6 and 59 in Haxtun, selling cars from 1971-81. At the end of those 10 years, Atkins decided that since he enjoyed the equipment business more and needed to expand, he would do away with his car dealership.
“The ’80s were hard years for farmers,” said Atkins, and of course that hit his business hard as well.
After surviving the farming recession, Leon Atkins Motors took another big hit in January 1994. The business lost everything when a fire broke out at 11:30 a.m. Atkins said an employee was working on a forklift during construction for a new shop building, and they think the fumes got up to a heater, causing the fire.
Workers tried to put out the flames, he said, “but they couldn’t begin to stop it.”
As a business owner, Atkins’ first thought was to finish building that new shop as soon as possible so he could continue doing business there. Two people advised him to build again right where the business was located.
Case IH had different plans. Their marketing plan for Leon Atkins Motors had the business relocating in Holyoke. After much thought and reevaluation, the Atkins family packed up and headed east. Haxtun Co-op bought the property in Haxtun while Atkins secured Holyoke property from John Baldwin, just east of town where the business is currently located.
“It’s been a very good move,” said Atkins. “It’s made a lot of difference.”
Atkins and his wife Beverly have had the opportunity to go on several trips with the tractor equipment companies. Atkins said the most timely one, a trip to Sweden, Finland and Russia, came the summer after the fire and was a good chance for them to take a breather and get away for a while.
The Atkinses have also enjoyed two trips to the Super Bowl, a Mediterranean cruise and two more excursions to Spain.
Since retirement at the first of the year, Atkins has been savoring his much-needed time off, but he added he’s sure he’ll have plenty to keep him busy in the coming months.
He is glad to have more time for his daughter Sarah and her medical needs. He also has two grown sons, Garrett and Lance.
A trip to Israel and Jordan is in the works for March, and Atkins plans to spend some time in his shop working on his motorhome and Cobra. Photography projects and church activities will also keep this retiree busy.
Leon Atkins Motors is now Ag Power Equipment Company. Atkins was pleased with the sale to Ken Coleman, the majority owner of Ag Power from Sharon Springs, Kan.
Both Atkins and Curt Parker, the manager in Holyoke, have known Coleman for many years. “With Ken I just felt comfortable that it’ll be operated as it has been,” said Atkins. “I respect his ethics in business.”
He added the transition will be as smooth as possible since all the employees have stayed the same.
Atkins thanks customers, friends and employees from both Haxtun and Holyoke who have made the last 40 years so successful.