Standing the test of time: Watson’s Inc evolves and adapts over 92 years

0
519
watsons inc
Eric Watson and his father, David Watson, stand by one of the Massey Ferguson tractors they sell at Watson’s Inc, in Hermitage, Pennsylvania. The two run the company that was founded by David’s father, Alan. (Rachel Wagoner photo)

HERMITAGE, Pa. — Watson’s Inc. has been many things over the years. A gas station and convenience store. A Mack and Federal Trucks dealer. A distributor for Clark go-karts. For a while, it served as the polling place for the western half of Jefferson Township, as well as an after-hours hangout spot for old guys who took advantage of the fact that was one of the the first places locally with a television set.

Company President Dave Watson has seen the company through many of its forms, including its current one as a full-line Massey Ferguson dealer that sells and services tractors and equipment of all ages to customers of all kinds throughout western Pennsylvania and eastern Ohio.

The company has adapted to change with the times without forgetting where it came from, making it one of few dealerships like it to stand the test of time. They’ve done this by staying focused on the future.

“We tried to preserve it for the next generation,” Watson said.

History

old watsons inc
Watson’s Inc was founded in 1932 as a gas station, convenience store and repair shop, east of Hermitage, Pennsylvania. (Rachel Wagoner photo)

Watson’s Inc started in 1932 as a gas station, convenience store and repair shop. Dave’s father, Alan “Woody” Watson, borrowed a couple hundred dollars from his dad and brother to buy the building on the new U.S. Route 62.

“All the inventory could fit in the trunk of the car,” Dave Watson said, because break-ins were frequent.

The business grew and evolved. Watson’s added a school bus business in 1938, when Woody bought his first school bus. In addition to bussing students, they were involved in military transportation as well as transporting workers to build the Mosquito Creek Reservoir.

The company became a truck dealer for Mack and Federal in the 1940s. In the early 1950s, they got into selling Ferguson tractors around the time the Ferguson 30 came out. Not long after that, Ferguson merged with Massey Harris, which eventually renamed the company Massey Ferguson.

Dave Watson took over in 1981 after his father died. He’d been working at the business, doing various things over the years, after getting a bachelor’s degree in mathematics from Grove City College and “doing a stint in the Army” during the Vietnam War. His father told him he could find a better job than working at the family business, but it’s where he stayed. His son, Eric, is sales manager, although he does little bit of everything, as one does at a family business.

“I was mopping the bathroom floor yesterday,” he said.

Dave’s wife, Brenda, runs the bus garage that sits behind the tractor dealership. They have 40 school buses now and serve several school districts.

Consolidation

AGCO bought Massey Ferguson in 1994, bringing more changes to Watson’s. The changes were gradual, though, Dave Watson said, as they added more of AGCO’s other brands to their offerings. While the acquisition required Watson’s employees to learn about new lines of equipment, it also opened them up to new groups of people.

“It brings in customers we weren’t reaching before,” Dave Watson said.

There was also consolidation at the local level. Dave Watson said there used to be six AGCO brand tractor dealers in Mercer County, Pennsylvania. Now Watson’s Inc is only one to serve the county, as well as surrounding counties in Pennsylvania and Ohio. They service a 60-mile radius around the shop with two dedicated service trucks.

Their salesmen cover large territories as well. Jarrod Barry covers sales south of Interstate 80, and Wayne Sampson covers sales north of Interstate 80.

Changes

Staying relevant in an ever-changing world and business atmosphere has meant learning about new technology while keeping in touch with the past.

“In the morning, you would be looking at something built in 1950, and later you’re looking at something that has more technology than they had to go to the moon,” Eric Watson said.

The last decade has seen the biggest jump forward in technology, with both tractors and equipment, Dave Watson said. For example, anything over 25 horsepower has a computer to deal with emissions. Additionally, more technology usually means more wires. This high-level equipment requires special training for service techs, but it’s also “easier to operate and safer,” Dave Watson said.

Older equipment that many farmers and smallholders in the region still have can also be a challenge, mostly when it comes to finding the right parts. It’s a constant balancing act, Eric Watson said.

“Anybody can sell this stuff. It takes a lot of knowledge, patience and focus to keep it working,” he said.

Dave Watson believes they serve one of the most diverse groups of customers in the country. There are hobbyists, dairy farmers, crop farmers, and everyone in between, all with vastly different needs.

Sales of compact tractors have grown as people have moved back to rural areas. There are more people are coming into Watson’s with less experience operating equipment. Some have never operated a tractor before, Dave Watson said. The key is to treat each customer with importance, whether they’re selling them a $300,000 tractor or a $3,000 lawnmower.

“You have to approach every one of those situations as this is a big deal to them,” Eric Watson said. “Each one of those experiences needs to be as important to me as it is to the buyer.”

Info

Watson’s Inc is located at 7130 E State St, Hermitage, Pennsylvania. In addition to being a full-line Massey Ferguson dealer, they also sell and service Krone, McHale, Anderson, Rhino, Woods, Buhler- Farm King, EZ Trail, Unverferth, Remlinger, H&S, Hagedorn, Simplicity and Grasshopper.

Hours of operation are 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekdays and 8 a.m. to noon on Saturdays. For more information, visit www.watsonsinc.com/ or call 724-346-6514.

Get our Top Stories in Your Inbox

Next step: Check your inbox to confirm your subscription.

NO COMMENTS

LEAVE A REPLY

We are glad you have chosen to leave a comment. Please keep in mind that comments are moderated according to our comment policy.

Receive emails as this discussion progresses.