Phillips Equipment began selling John Deere products 50 years ago, and like the John Deere Company, still bears the name of its founders.
J.B. Phillips Jr. and his wife, Barbara, started the company in 1971. Their sons, Brad and Keith, took over more than 20 years ago, and still run it to this day.
“We give all the credit to our customer base and employees for staying here,” Brad Phillips said about the company’s longevity.
Located at 10364 Wards Road in Rustburg, Phillips Equipment still caters to the farmers it has served since day one, along with a growing number of residential customers with more lawn- and garden-focused needs. The store offers a wide range of parts and services for John Deere equipment, and various mowers, balers and tractors.
Brad, 71, handles service and Keith, 66, handles sales. Both have worked at the company for their entire adult lives. Keith Phillips recalled working in parts, sales and as a mechanic before ever working his way into a management role. Aside from a job driving school buses in high school, the younger Phillips has never worked outside of the family business.
Both brothers said they are proud of every year they’ve been with Phillips Equipment.
“I had no other desire in any of those years to venture out and do something else,” Keith Phillips said.
Originally located near the Lynchburg Regional Airport, Phillips Equipment moved to its current location in 1976.
Brad said the company sold just 10 lawn mowers the year it opened. Now, selling 400 to 500 in a year is nothing out of the ordinary.
Since Brad and Keith took over they’ve made two major additions to the store, finishing an expansion that increased its size by 50% shortly after their father passed, and adding another significant section to the front of the store roughly a decade ago.
“We have continued his dream,” Brad Phillips said when asked what his father would think about the business today.
In a typical year, the company would bring several gators to the Uncle Billy’s Day Parade, host a large open house with food for hundreds of people and engage with the community in other ways, traditions which the Phillips brothers intend to renew once the pandemic calms down.
Though shipping issues have affected some aspects of the business during the last year, by and large the store has done well. Besides, the Phillips brothers are used to change.
There was the switch from inventory cards to computers, or the non-stop improvements to tractors and mowers over the years to keep up with.
Just as products and services have changed over the years, both brothers know a change in ownership will have to come one day, perhaps sooner rather than later. But some things about the business may never change.
“The next generation is here in place, and learning the business and ready to take over,” Brad Phillips said.