Berry Tractor Celebrates 65 Years
Berry Tractor Celebrates 65 Years
June 1, 1957 is a day that Fred Berry, Jr. says he will never forget. Brothers Fred and Paul had moved to Wichita, Kansas from St. Louis, Missouri earlier that year to buy the Sam H. Denney Road Machinery Company. Their father was selling his farm equipment business in St. Louis and was prepared to invest his share of the sale in his sons as they sought out a business opportunity.
Fred remembers, “We wanted to be in business for ourselves – that was the family tradition and my personal ambition.” The brothers spent the spring working on their business plan, and that summer Berry Tractor & Equipment Co. was officially open for business on West Street, the same location it operates out of today.
“We chose the construction equipment business intentionally,” Fred says, “We liked the industry, we liked construction, and we liked contractors. The industry was, and still is, characterized by close, interdependent relationships between dealers and their customers. We liked that.”
Paul did not take to the equipment business like Fred did and moved on to other interests in the early 70’s.
In the beginning, Berry Tractor’s primary products were International Harvester crawler tractors and scrapers, Hough Payloaders, and Galion graders. They not only served customers from the Wichita location, but Garden City and Russell, Kansas, as well. They continued to grow through the 60’s and 70’s, adding a new location in Topeka, Kansas, upon purchasing Wentz Equipment in 1976. The Springfield branch was added in the early 80’s, as well as a Pittsburg location that eventually closed.
As the business grew and diversified, Berry Companies, Inc. was formed, and separate divisions were created. Berry Tractor served as the heavy construction equipment division. White Star Machinery and Berry Material Handling are other divisions serving the Kansas market.
In 1985, Fred’s son-in-law, Dan Scheer joined the business. He had a good business education and the experience to go along with it. Scheer would go on to become President of Berry Tractor in 1991, leading Berry Tractor through a strong period of growth throughout the 90’s. In 2002, Scheer worked with a long-time vendor rep to form S.B. Manufacturing with the goal to develop, manufacture, and sell a self-propelled construction broom. Around that same time, Scheer was promoted to Vice President of Operations overseeing Berry Tractor, Berry Material Handling, and S.B. Manufacturing.
Berry Tractor officially became the Komatsu distributor for Kansas and Springfield in 1989, and just six years later, was named its number one service provider in the nation. This designation was based on factors that included customer training, diagnostic tools, service quality, field campaign completion, and service market share.
In 2011, Jon Berry – Fred’s grandson and Scheer’s nephew – joined Berry Tractor. Under Scheer’s tutelage, Jon was promoted to General Manager in 2013. During this time, Berry Tractor shifted its focus from governmental customers to the contractor equipment rental market and has enjoyed several years of record growth. Jon was named President in 2014 and Scheer moved to S.B Manufacturing full time as owner.
This year, Berry Tractor is celebrating 65 years in business. Berry Tractor currently serves customers out of four locations – Wichita, Garden City, Topeka, and Springfield – and employs over 100 people. Today, Harry “H” Craig out of Topeka is General Manager. Craig joined the company in 2016 as Product Support Manager after having years of experience in his family’s own dealership, Martin Tractor.
As Fred often says, it is the people who make the company. Not only are the employees hard-working and loyal, but so are the customers. Twenty-five years ago, Fred wrote, “Customer loyalty has kept us in business for 40 years, and customer loyalty will be critical to our success in the next 40.” It is evident that this sentiment rings true today as well. In 65 years, much has changed, but Berry Tractor’s drive to deliver equipment solutions to their customers has remained a constant driving force.
Berry Tractor would like to thank longtime customers and new customers alike for placing their trust in Berry Tractor.
Story Published in Midwest Contractor