James River Heads to Hickory

Mon February 14, 2005 - Southeast Edition

A boom in development is heading toward Hickory, NC, and James River Equipment will be waiting.

The Charlotte-based company will officially open its 17th location along Highway 70 SW in mid-March in the mid-size town in the foothills of western North Carolina.

The John Deere dealer’s new facility boasts more than 2,000 sq. ft. of showroom space for commercial lawn equipment and a 30-by-50-yd. paved display area for construction equipment.

Manager Charles Hickman said James River has had a sales staff in the area, but decided to move in to step up its level of service.“We had to make the commitment to support our customers in this area,” he said.

Customers in the Hickory area have had to travel more than an hour to its nearest locations in Charlotte or Wilkesboro.

“We were penalizing the Deere customers for their loyalty,” Hickman said.

It didn’t take long for nearby customers to notice its presence. “When we got the sign up, we started getting immediate interest.

Construction equipment sales are led by Ronnie Rathbone and Adam Smith. A third salesman handles the agricultural equipment end of the business. In addition, two salesmen specialize in parts, with plans for a third.

At this location’s opening, four mechanics will man the eight service bays, but Hickman expects he’ll need to hire another two to four mechanics by June.

While he expects quick growth in Hickory, “We wanted to feel the market out first.” He said the company will stay at this location for two or three years, at which point officials will decide if they want to expand or move to a larger facility.

For now, the Hickory facility has enough room to host training sessions for James River employees and customers and will allow potential customers to take a test run on a piece of equipment.

Hickman said he and his staff will get the equipment to their customers as soon as possible. “James River’s philosophy is to turn equipment around as fast as you can [because] every 24 hours, that’s profit out the door.”

For rental customers, Hickman said the facility will be able to replace equipment from their location or the one in Charlotte should anything happen in the field.

While the grand opening is set for March, the Hickory location will unofficially open for business during the first week of February. For more information, call 828/322-4300. CEG Staff